WASHINGTON, December 16, 2009 – A number of groups representing minority interests are advocating that special rules be created by the government for Native Americans applying for broadband stimulus grants.
The awards are being decided by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities, which were charged by Congress in January to distribute $7.2 billion of federal funding to expand broadband penetration across the country.
“[W]e recommend that NTIA and RUS consider creating special rules and allocating increased funding for tribal areas to ensure these communities are included in the digital economy,” according to the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, Asian American Justice Center, League of United Latin American Citizens, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Urban League and One Economy Corp.
In public comments on the broadband grant application process, the minority groups “recommend that additional funding be allocated to promote capacity building efforts among local tribal nations.” This funding would help separate tribal areas create their own plans to maximize broadband funds, according to the document filed to the NTIA.
According to a study released last month by the Native Public Media and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, the Native American population is one of the most disconnected groups in the country.
“Native Americans are among the last citizens to gain access to the Internet, with access to broadband often unavailable or overly expensive in Native communities,” according to the research. The paper suggested the Federal Communications Commission create a tribal broadband plan within the national broadband plan that it is currently drafting. The Government Accountability Office wrote in 2006 that the penetration rate for broadband access in the Native American communities was less than 10 percent.
NTIA’s Request for Comments on Broadband Data Spurs Concerns About FCC’s Form 477
WASHINGTON, August 7, 2018 – Many in the broadband industry commenting on broadband availability data exposed the weaknesses of current Federal Communications Commission data – and not only in the data itself but in the process by which it is collected.
The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications Industry Association conducted a request for comments on actions that could be taken to improve the quality and accuracy of broadband availability data, particularly in rural areas.
Although the FCC regularly conduct requests for comments on broadband-related matters, the NTIA weighs in more sparingly. The agency’s May 30 Request for Comments followed a directive of Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.
In it, the NTIA said that it sought “input from a broad range of interested stakeholders—including private industry; academia; federal, state, and local government; not-for-profits; and other stakeholders with an interest in broadband availability—on ways to improve the nation’s ability to analyze broadband availability, with the intention of identifying gaps in broadband availability that can be used to improve policymaking and inform public investments.”
Form 477 a chief item of criticism; diverse suggestions on tackling it
The FCC has previously faced criticism for utilizing inaccurate data from “Form 477.” Collected for nearly two decades, the Form 477 was first collected at the census tract level.
Following the introduction of the NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative program of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NTIA and FCC collaborating on collecting broadband data at the census block level, a much finer level of geography.
Several State Broadband Initiative entities collected data at the sub-census block level, too.
In its request for comment, the NTIA said it wanted to focus particularly on whether and how the data could be improved.
It said: “This data also demonstrates that there continued to be a significant disparity across America, with more than 30 percent of rural Americans and approximately 35 percent of those living on Tribal lands lacking broadband availability, compared to 2 percent of Americans living in urban areas.”
Diverse set of responses to NTIA’s request, with US Telecom urging a rural focus
A diverse list of companies, associations, and government bodies issued responses to NTIA’s request, which was due on July 16.
US Telecom argued that NTIA’s efforts to collect sub-census block data may continue to be ineffective due to lack of understanding over where unserved locations actually are.
According to US Telecom, the root of the problem is not “an inaccurate view of where broadband exists” but rather that “unserved locations are not mapped at all.” Because they are unmapped, the unserved areas remain excluded from policies to deploy broadband access.
“It is therefore our recommendation that NTIA concentrate its limited resources on augmenting the National Broadband Map with a more fulsome set of rural geocoded locations that may exist in the hands of other government entities,” US Telecom said.
Utah’s broadband office says that coverage by census block coverage overcounts broadband
The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development commented that in the FCC’s current model, in “any census block that is partially covered,” all residents – including those unserved – in the census block could be made ineligible for all federal broadband programs. The partially covered census block could be ineligible even if the majority of residents are unserved.
To remedy this situation, the Utah recommended that the “NTIA and the FCC should work with providers and state broadband mapping programs to coordinating data and mapping efforts in order to collect actual provider footprints.”
WISPA opposes FCC efforts to collect granular broadband data
The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association expressed concern that new efforts by the FCC to collect more granular data could press heavy demands on small service providers, who may have difficulty collecting such specific data.
“Data-collection efforts that seek broadband deployment at the sub-census block level will create new burdens on small broadband providers that will be ill-equipped to provide information at a more granular level,” WISPA said.
WISPA also noted that obtaining granular data can be costly and time-consuming for small business who may have to purchase new software or upgrade existing technology.
Microsoft recommended “visualization and analytic tools” to collect, analyze, compare, and display information drawn from the data. By providing visualization tools, the data FCC collects will reach a greater audience and “help users better understand broadband availability” to decrease data input errors.
Microsoft hones in on a crucial distinctions: Actual service versus potential service
Microsoft also recommended that the FCC change the language specified in the data collection form to ensure that providers are reporting the areas that actually provide service to, not areas where they “could” provide service.
“We are aware of a rural county in which the FCC’s data reports six fixed broadband providers and 100 percent of the 2000-plus census blocks as having broadband access meeting the FCC’s 25/3 Mbps definition. Interestingly, about two-thirds of the census blocks in that county have a population of zero,” Microsoft said.
Two broadband providers reported they could provide broadband access, despite that they actually were not serving the residents, as “customer service representatives for these providers confirmed that they do not provide residential services in these communities.”
(Screengrab of NTIA Adminstrator David Redl speaking at the Phoenix Center in December 2017.)
Pew Charitable Trusts Announces New Broadband Research Effort
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2018 – The Pew Charitable Trusts recently announced a new broadband research effort amid concerns that government’s past data collection methods are not enough to inform policy makers on the nation’s broadband access gap.
In a May 30 webinar event on this new broadband research initiative focused on improving data collection methods and connecting data research to public policy, researchers focused on how to better serve less-connected parts of the country.
Anne Stauffer, director of broadband research at the Pew Charitable Trusts, explained that the goal of the project is to provide data and analysis to policy makers looking to expand broadband access to the millions of Americans who lack reliable and high-speed internet services. The event was hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
As part of the research, the Pew Charitable Trusts plan to convene stakeholders, in-state policymakers, industry, and other interest groups working within the broadband access issue. Stauffer expressed that looking at this method of looking at issues of access may help inform research and state practices.
Stauffer said that one of the challenges surrounding the access issue is that some of the available data is either not sufficiently accurate or fails to provide policymakers with what they need to make decisions about where the gaps in broadband access are located, and how it can be fixed.
Link to Pew Charitable Trusts webcast:
New Updates to the BroadbandCensus.com List of NTIA Comments
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2009 – The BroadbandCensus.com List of NTIA Comments has been updated to include summaries of comments from AT&T, Atkins Telephone, ATSI, Barling Bay, Benton Foundation, Big Think Strategies, Boston, Bresnan Communications, Broadband Development Corporation, Broadband Diversity Supporters, Broadpoint, Center for Democracy and Technology, Cheetah Wireless, Chicago,
Cisco, Community Connect Network, Connected Nation, US Cellular, US Telecom Association, and Utopian Wireless.
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2009 – The BroadbandCensus.com List of NTIA Comments has been updated to include summaries of additional comments filed with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Check back to this page frequently to view additional summaries of the substantive comments filed before the NTIA. The comments are summarized by the staff of BroadbandCensus.com.
Comments updated on the Broadband Census.com List of Comments
- Atkins Telephone
- Barling Bay
- Benton Foundation
- Big Think Strategies
- Bresnan Communications
- Broadband Development Corporation
- Broadband Diversity Supporters
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- Cheetah Wireless
- Community Connect Network
- Connected Nation
- US Cellular
- US Telecom Association
- Utopian Wireless
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