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FCC Workshops

Elected Officials Say Broadband Plan Must Give Role to States and Localities

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2009 – Mayors and state elected officials emphasized the value and importance of local engagement in initiatives designed to promote high-speed internet access at a Wednesday morning workshop at the Federal Communications Commission.

Three Commissioners plus Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd gathered to discuss the particular role that local and state governments have in promoting broadband for under-served communities.

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WASHINGTON, December 9, 2009 – Mayors and state elected officials emphasized the value and importance of local engagement in initiatives designed to promote high-speed internet access at a Wednesday morning workshop at the Federal Communications Commission.

Three Commissioners plus Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd gathered to discuss the particular role that local and state governments have in promoting broadband for under-served communities.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn reminded the audience that that the local officials play a key role in recognizing where there are broadband gaps – and in bridging the disconnect in trust between the communities and the federal policy makers.

Eugene Grant, mayor of Seat Pleasant, Md., and vice president of the National Conference of Black Mayors, echoed Clyburn’s words. He said mayors and city governments are in the best positions to assess needs of their communities, and to be the most proactive.

“Municipal governments are in the best position to engage in broadband mapping to ascertain who connected and unconnected,” he said. “Municipal governments can easily find areas in need of most improvement and can define broadband opportunities a way that state and federal governments cannot.”

Grant also spoke of the Digital Harmony program in Tallahassee, Fla., which provides broadband home access, digital training, mentoring and support to sixth graders whose families cannot afford it.

The program has been a success, he said, but it can be very hard to find information about such programs. Grant said the agency should ensure that the national broadband plan include information about successful adoption programs, and how municipal governments can help.

Robert Steele, commissioner of the Second District of Cook County, in Illinois, cited One Economy’s Digital Communities program. He defined the program as a public-private partnership at the municipal level that delivered broadband to public access centers, created relevant content online, and established opportunities for digital literacy training to help communities understand how to improve their lives.

Steele said that after one year, 82 percent to 86 percent of the minority community houses in the program used the Internet at home, as opposed to the national average of 48 percent.

Additionally, after one year, 92 percent of the participants continued to use the Internet in their home and only one-third were still receiving the free access provided by One Economy. Many households became self-supported users of the initiatives, he said.

The FCC’s Lloyd asked all the panelists about where the funding comes from for literacy programs. Are the states coming up with creative ways to solve the problems?

Calvin Smyre, president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, and a Georgia state representative, admitted that states have not placed a priority on these issues owing to the recession.

The way to solve the problem, Smyre said, is to raise the program from a public policy perspective and make it a state and national priority. A direct correlation to public safety can elevate an issue.

“By working with local and city government states can come up with creative ways to elevate digital literacy to a quality of life issue which in turn will make it more of a funding apparatus,” he said.

Grant, of Seat Pleasant, also added that the key to addressing funding lies in partnerships. The Digital Harmony program would not have taken off without meaningful public-private partnerships. The corporate community should be engaged and help fund initial innovation, he said, because it creates an increased customer base for them.

Lloyd also asked Grant about how local community officials balance competing broadband demand from public safety, schools, and community organizations.

Grant responded by stressing the importance of engaging the public and getting them to understand that bringing broadband to the community bring access to the world. That, in turn, can accommodate many different interests.

In trying to address communication between the federal, state, and local governments, Steele, of Cook County, said that while local efforts to promote broadband have the advantage of more complete knowledge, federal and state efforts have better funding and more resources for better data-collection.

“Ideally, the national broadband plan would include municipal implementation, accompanied by federal support,” he said.

Additionally, federal lawmakers should make sure that public housing projects are wired for broadband, that the E-Rate is expanded to include digital literacy for adult learners, and that the Universal Service Fund include broadband in its list of supported services.

In Washington, D.C., housing developments have collaborated with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to install broadband technology in new developments.

Gus West, board chair and president of the Hispanic Institute, made an important point when he pointed out that every community needs to be assessed individually. A rural town in Kansas must be dealt with differently than a community in inner-city Chicago.

It boils down to why each individual needs to be on the Internet, he said.

In order to apply for government benefits, a mother needs to have an e-mail address; in order to monitor her children in school, she will need access to the school listserv account; and in order to apply for a job, she must go online.

As Deputy Editor, Chris Naoum is curating expert opinions, and writing and editing articles on Broadband Breakfast issue areas. Chris served as Policy Counsel for Future of Music Coalition, Legal Research Fellow for the Benton Foundation and law clerk for a media company, and previously worked as a legal clerk in the office of Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. He received his B.A. from Emory University and his J.D. and M.A. in Television Radio and Film Policy from Syracuse University.

FCC Workshops

Indian Tribes Will Have Six-Month Window of Opportunity to Apply for Former EBS Spectrum at 2.5 GigaHertz

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Photo of FCC tribal broadband workshop by Adrienne Patton

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2020 – Federally-recognized Indian tribes will have a six-month priority window, beginning February 3, in which to apply for access to the radio frequency spectrum available at 2.5 GigaHertz (GHz).

At a workshop at the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, Chairman Ajit Pai and agency officials detailed the eligibility requirements for access to the spectrum in the band of the federal airwaves that was previously referred to as the Educational Broadband Service. The window will run from February 3 until August 3, 2020.

Historically, educational services, including universities and school districts, has special access to the 2.5 GHz spectrum band.

When the FCC eliminated the education requirement in July 2019, Pai said tribal lands would have a priority window for free access to broadband, before commercial auctions.

Catherine Schroeder, senior advisor to the Wireline Competition Bureau, explained the benefits of 2.5 GHz in rural settings. As it is a midband spectrum, she said, 2.5 GHz combines the qualities of a lower band, but with greater broadband capacity.

Schroeder continued that 2.5 GHz is particularly useful in rural areas because it has high power limits, a lower frequency, and can travel through walls, windows, and densely wooded areas.

Because 2.5 GHz is already utilized with other radio frequency transmissions, Schroeder said that there is an “ecosystem of equipment” that can be relatively inexpensive because the education licensees have already used 2.5 GHz to deploy broadband or have leases with a commercial entity.

During the six-month window beginning February 3, Indian tribes seeking to apply would apply on the FCC website for rural areas in which the applicant’s tribe has a “local presence.”

Harold Chesnin, representing the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, was concerned about non-contiguous tribal lands. Dana Shaffer, chief of staff of the agency’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, replied that applicants can fill out waivers to turn in with their application.

Tribal lands will be able to define their license area and can apply for an overlay license. Although tribal areas will not be able to access spectrum or build on areas that are already covered, an overlay license is useful for areas that are partially covered.

If there is availability in one of the three channels, overlay licensees can request that slot.

There are buildout requirements, but it does not require that anyone be signed up for service. Schroeder explained that after the first two years, 50 percent of the population must be provided service, with 80 percent of the population to be covered within five years.

Shaffer clarified that rural areas do not have to use every megahertz within the spectrum range. The tribal lands that are approved can lease to a third party for buildout, but must maintain primary responsibility for the execution, completion, and buildout deadlines.

The FCC developed an improved mapping tool to help applicants know what channels are available on their lands. A search box and various color coding allows for simple maneuvering on the site. Users can follow links to see who has current licenses to those who have part of the spectrum, however, the site does not clarify if there is active deployment in those licensed areas.

In the case of a waiver to be filed with evidence for adding pockets of non-reservation lands to an area. The FCC made it clear that waivers are not to be used for access already-licensed spectrum. Furthermore, waivers are not guaranteed approval.

The FCC urged attendees to avoid applications for spectrum and areas that overlap.

Danae Wilson, a representative for Nez Perce tribe, wanted to know how an application might differ for tribes who are in the process of purchasing more land. The mapping data is based on the latest census, and those areas are only eligible for the 6-month window, said FCC Staff.

At the close of the priority window, the agency will move to an auction with bidding on the remaining spectrum in three channels at 2.5 GHz. Licenses will not be dispersed within the six months, but granted afterwards.

Shaffer said every federally recognized tribe has been contacted personally. FCC officials insisted that they want the initiative to be successful and feasible, and invited questions throughout the process.

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5G

Removing Chinese Telecommunications Equipment From U.S. Broadband Networks Would Cost More Than $1 Billion

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WASHINGTON, June 27, 2019 – When it comes to removing Huawei or ZTE telecommunications equipment from U.S. broadband networks, a strategy of “rip and place” would cost well over $1 billion.

Rural broadband carriers don’t have the budget for that, and they are concerned that the costs of a retrofit would delay the deployment of 5G wireless networks.

That was the message that multiple broadband providers – particularly rural entities – delivered to Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks at a Thursday FCC workshop that had been framed as a discussion about network security.

Starks staked out a strong position against the use of Chinese telecommunications equipment in U.S. broadband networks, noting existing steps by the Trump administration to prohibit procurement of telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE.

Starks convened the discussion at the agency, however, to address equipment that is already inextricable intertwined within U.S. networks.  “Network security is national security, and our interconnected networks are only as secure as their most vulnerable pieces,” he said.

The discussion applies to wired networks because equipment to run fiber-optic wires will be more instrumental in operating 5G networks than previous technologies. Mike Saperstein, vice president of policy and advocacy at US Telecom, said he is in support of federal risk management activities to “identify supply-chain threats.”

Others cited the distinction between trusting equipment and trusting suppliers. Much of 5G and 4G traffic will not necessarily pass through a network core, said Brian Hendricks, vice president of policy and government relations at Nokia. The radio layer of a mobile network has become a more vulnerable point of attack.

The issue of deploying 5G will fall “particularly hard” on small rural carriers in the United States, Hendricks said.

The only way to eliminate any risk would be to ban Chinese equipment entirely, said Jim Lewis, senior vice president and director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And such a “rip and replace” is not tenable, he said.

Moreover, he said, just as big American tech companies use Chinese components in their equipment, Chinese telecom depends on U.S. technological advancements.

And doing anything that would delay the deployment of 5G technology would ultimately hinder the economy.

Carri Bennet, general counsel at The Rural Wireless Association. Cited the figure of more-than $1 billion figure for replacing all Huawei and ZTE equipment. And attempting to replace network equipment while the network is still in operation could create service issues, including for public safety.

She suggested that it would be good to start with third-party monitoring of carrier networks.

“We should not be reliant on suppliers from adversarial nations to design manage and secure our critical infrastructure, especially as we develop cloud technologies,” said Travis Russell, director of cybersecurity at Oracle Communications. There is no finalized definition yet of what a stand-alone 5G network would look like, he said, so there is still time to “work out a solution” for this dilemma.

The FCC has a vital role in understanding the issues that small, rural carriers face, said Dileep Srihari, senior policy counsel at Telecommunications Industry Association.

Many rural providers lack the budget to replace banned equipment, said Jeff Johnston, senior economist at CoBank.

A “rip and replace” strategy to remove equipment that some have suggest is not secure would bear an “enormous” opportunity cost for rural carriers relying on Huawei for telecom infrastructure, said Christopher Reno, chief accounting officer at Union Telephone Company.

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Broadband's Impact

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai Announces Broadband Advisory Group to Propose Model City Ordinances

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WASHINGTON, January 31, 2017 – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday announced the formation of a new federal advisory committee that would seek to accelerate deployment of high-speed broadband nationwide, and to close the digital divide, by providing a model approach to deployment for municipalities.

“Access to broadband is increasingly critical for all Americans, no matter who they are or where they live,” Pai said in a statement.  “It’s becoming the 21st-century gateway to jobs, health care, education, information, and economic development everywhere, from the smallest town to the largest city.  That makes it imperative for us to remove regulatory barriers to the deployment of high-speed Internet access.”

The FCC said that the committee would focus on developing specific recommendations for how the agency can encourage broadband deployment by further changing the FCC’s pole attachment rules; identifying unreasonable regulatory barriers to broadband deployment; and through ways to entice local governments to adopt what it considers to be deployment-friendly policies.

In particular, according to the FCC release:

“[O]ne of the Committee’s first tasks will be drafting a model code covering local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations.  Many localities may not currently have or be able to develop policies conducive to deployment.  With a model code approved by the FCC, any city could build a better regulatory environment for deployment, and any provider would have a better case for installing infrastructure.”

The agency said that nominees for the newly formed Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee would be drawn from a diverse set of stakeholders representing both urban and rural areas, and that all are encouraged to apply.

More information is available at www.fcc.gov/broadband-deployment-advisory-committee. Nominations should be made by e-mail to BDAC@fcc.gov, and the FCC will accept nominations until February 15, 2017.  The Commission expects to hold its first meeting of the new Committee during the spring of 2017.

For additional information about the Committee, please contact Brian Hurley, the Designated Federal Officer for the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, at (202) 418-2220 or (Brian.Hurley@fcc.gov), or Paul D’Ari, the Deputy Designated Federal Officer, at (202) 418-1550 or (Paul.DAri@fcc.gov).

Below is Chairman Pai’s complete statement about the BDAC:

“Last September, I proposed what I called a Digital Empowerment Agenda—a blueprint of policies that would accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access, or broadband, in communities across the country.

“Today, I am excited to announce the formation of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), which will aim to provide advice and recommendations to the FCC on how to do just that.  The BDAC’s mission will be to identify regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment and to make recommendations to the Commission on reducing and/or removing them.

“One of the first things the BDAC will be asked to do is draft for the Commission’s consideration a model code for broadband deployment.  This model code will cover topics like local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations.  Building, upgrading, and deploying broadband networks isn’t easy, and red tape often can make the task harder than it needs to be.  Similarly, many localities that have a strong interest in promoting a digital economy within their borders may not have the resources or expertise to develop and implement deployment-friendly policies.  Consumers ultimately pay the price in terms of less access to next-generation services.  Our hope is that with a model code approved by the FCC, one that any city could use as a template, the case for broadband deployment would be much easier, especially for communities that seek to proactively encourage it.

“We’ve already filed the necessary paperwork to stand up the BDAC, with plans to convene its first meeting this spring.  Two dedicated members of the FCC staff, Brian Hurley and Paul D’Ari, have agreed to be the Committee’s Designated Federal Officer and Deputy Designated Federal Officer respectively, and I’d like to thank them for their commitment to these efforts.  But we also need your help.  The Commission will be releasing a Public Notice with more details about the Committee’s work and an explanation of the member-selection process.  I encourage interested members of the public to apply and to be ready to share your best ideas in order to help bring digital opportunity to all Americans.”

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