Connect with us

Broadband's Impact

Spectrum Bill and Broadband Breakfast Pre Holiday Wrap Up



WASHINGTON December 14, 2011 – The FCC, the Hill and the Telecom industry has been busy over the last couple of weeks. Here is a wrap-up of the most important events.

House Passes Spectrum Auction Incentive Bill

After a 234-193 vote, the House Payroll Tax Extension Bill incorporated the full version of the Republican Incentive Auction bill. Last week the House Communications Sub Committee headed by Rep Greg Walden (R-OR) voted 17-6 to approve the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011. This spectrum incentive auction bill would give the FCC authority to pay broadcasters for the voluntary release of their spectrum that could then be used for broadband build out.

The bill would set aside up to $3 billion in revenue that would go to the broadcasters from the predicted $15 billion that the auction will bring in. Walden noted that the bill has the potential to create up to 100,000 jobs.

The the bill would require the FCC to preserve the spectrum and coverage areas of the broadcasters that do not volunteer to give up spectrum, compensate cable operators for cost of re configuring broadcast signals and prevent UHF channels from having to move to VHF which is not as ideal for DTV.

An amendment that was added to the Bill by Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has been labeled a “poison pill” by Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA). The Blackburn amendment would prohibit the FCC from imposing Net Neutrality conditions on wireless companies that purchase the new spectrum.

FCC Chairman Genachowski addressed the passage of the incentive auction bill by remarking,

“Over the last weeks and months, we have conveyed to Members of Congress and their staff concerns about provisions that would reduce FCC flexibility to maximize the overall value of freed-up spectrum, enhance spectrum efficiency, and promote robust innovation and investment. Several provisions of the House bill would tie the agency’s hands in ways that could be counterproductive, reducing economic value and hindering innovation and investment. One important example is the legislation’s seeming limitation on the Commission’s ability to accommodate new technologies, including those that use unlicensed spectrum, like super WiFi or machine-to-machine Internet connected devices. I encourage Congress to leave no doubt that the FCC can continue its policies to promote unlicensed spectrum use alongside licensed uses.”

The Democrats have announced that aside from the net neutrality provision they do not support the current legislation for a number of reasons. The bill 1) “establishes an overly bureaucratic, costly and cumbersome governance model that places significant authority in a private for-profit entity that lacks meaningful oversight” for public safety broadband networks, 2) impedes the FCC from allocating future spectrum reclaimed from incentive auctions for unlicensed use, 3) restricts the Commission’s ability to craft auction rules that ensure communications markets remain competitive, 4) does not provide enough funds to build public safety network sand does not fund research and development in public safety communication 5) provides broadcasters with 3 times the amount of compensation for relocation expenses than the Democratic proposal and 6) could put state and local investment in public safety 700MHz narrow band at risk by forcing premature return of this spectrum.

Telecom Companies Challenge the FCC on USF and ICC Reform

Following up on our POST from last week, AT&T and National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) joined suit against the FCC’s overhaul of the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation Systems.

AT&T’s challenge comes on the grounds that the FCC overstepped their authority. An AT&T spokesman said they appealed on a very narrow inter-carrier compensation issue.

The NTCA also filed suit against the Commission’s Order and FNPRM stating:

“There are several specific provisions of the order, however, that we are concerned fail to comport with the fundamental mandates of the Communications Act and the core principles of universal service. These provisions threaten to undermine the carefully constructed regulatory balance that has proven successful thus far in bringing telecommunications and advanced services to ruralAmerica. They put at risk the ability of small, rural, community-based providers to access capital and invest in broadband-capable networks in their hometowns and the surrounding countryside. Provisions mandating an ultimate price of zero for all switched access and reciprocal compensation services, imposing retroactive and dynamically changing caps on USF-supported costs and blurring the lines between regulated and nonregulated operations are inconsistent with law. These provisions will harm rural communities, and will not help to advance the availability and affordability of services for all rural consumers.”

Verizon Finds Better Way to Get More Spectrum and others have been paying attention to the problems AT&T is experiencing with its T-Mobile proposed merger.

Verizon made its own move last week to scoop up an additional $3.6 billion worth of spectrum from the cable industry. The coalition of cable companies, SpectrumCo, made up of Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks are selling 122 of their Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) licenses which cover much of the cable companies’ territory in the 48 states. Verizon Wireless is paying 1.2 billion over what the cable companies paid for the licenses in 2006.

The deal apparently stipulates that the cable companies will be able to use Verizon’s sales channels to promote their products and Verizon will be able to sell content owned by the cable companies thought it’s own channels. Furthermore the companies have also agreed to focus on developing technologies that will better integrate wireless and wireline products and services.

The deal will have to be approved by the FCC and the DOJ but with the FCC slated to apparently approve AT&T’s acquisition of Qualcomm’s 700 MHz spectrum it does not seem likely that this deal will face anything harsher than some possible conditions.

LightSquared Interference Leaks

Last week an NTIA proposed government test was leaked to the public showing that LightSquared Inc’s wireless services caused interference in 75% of GPS receivers examined. LightSquared Inc plans to develop a wholesale 4G LTE wireless broadband communications network integrated with satellite coverage across the United States.

The tests conducted between Oct. 31 and Nov. 4 apparently show that “LightSquared signals cause harmful interference to majority of GPS receiver tested.” National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Systems Engineering Forum conducted the testing on devices which include those used for automobile and boat navigation.

Martin Harriman, Executive Vice President of LightSquared Inc. was outraged at the leak of what he considers incomplete government data. Harriman noted that LightSquared is proposing to operate at a power level much lower than those used in the test and believes that operations would only affect about 10% of devices.

“It is important for the public to understand the purposeful manipulation at hand here: The NTIA, not the leakers of this raw data, will make the final determination about how many devices passed or failed. And that assessment has not yet been made. The government must launch a full investigation of the premature disclosure of this raw data to ensure the credibility of the process is not damaged, and question the motives of those who have leaked this incomplete information,” said Harriman.

FCC Gets Tough on Waste Fraud and Abuse in Lifeline Program

The FCC has sent out an Enforcement Advisory to state eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) who provide Lifeline services, reminding them of their obligation to properly confirm consumer’s eligibility and assure that consumers are not receiving Lifeline support from another provider. The FCC warns that violators of these Lifeline rules face stiff penalties and even possible revocation of their ETC designation.

Chairman Genachowski has made it clear that he wants the state Public Utility Commissions to take a more active role in policing the program. In a letter to the state commissions earlier this week the Chairman wrote, “I encourage all of you to join the FCC in our efforts to reform the Lifeline program by closely scrutinizing the requests for ETC designation pending before you, to be on guard for abuse by ETCs designated to provide Lifeline service in your states, and to take swift and strong action when necessary to protect the program.”

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.

Broadband's Impact

Josephine Bernson: The Customer Experience is About More Than Fiber

‘Listen to the customer’ is a fundamental pillar in gaining a satisfied customer.



The author of this Expert Opinion is Josephine Bernson, Chief Revenue Officer at Great Plains Communications.

Customer experience and the digital customer experience are what makes businesses today stand apart from competitors. In our connected world, it means delivering products and services via high-speed internet, provided by a network that’s reliable and scalable according to rising bandwidth demand.

Yet, we must keep in mind the other component of a first-rate customer experience: customer service excellence.

Customer service excellence, from the beginning

How does a fiber provider successfully work with the customers and the community from the very beginning? And, continue to provide exceptional customer service each day thereafter?

It begins with listening.Listen to the customer” is a fundamental pillar in gaining a satisfied customer, whether it’s meeting with business executives, community leaders or residents. What are they hoping to achieve with their network, short-term and long-term? Any concerns that should be addressed?

Respond with solutions that meet their needs.  Personalization is better than a one-size-fits-all approach. Each customer has different needs and unique bandwidth specifications that should be taken into consideration. For example, the ability to adjust availability to accommodate peak work hours for a financial institution or local government complex or the flexibility needed for a local business that serves an online global market.

Get to know your customers. Focus on getting to know your customers through participating in local events and spending time in the community. Teams that live and work in same community they serve care about providing their neighbors with high-quality products and superior service. Valuable feedback comes from customers who directly interact with local employees immersed in the community.

Timely and convenient customer service options. If there’s a problem, how can customers contact you for a resolution? Does the customer service center or 24/7 operations center always have agents available? Are there easily accessible online resources equipped to handle common questions? Automation is a big trend in CX. While we enjoy our personal relationships with our customers, we also leverage technology for self-service tools. It’s important to enable customers to do business in whichever manner works best for them.

Happy employees for a happy customer experience

Happy employees have long been credited with increased productivity and better service for customers. Great Plains Communications’ culture has always been to attract, train and retain workers from the areas it serves.

Customer service representative Marisa Benham has been with Great Plains Communications for 15 years. “I’ve always been a people person so I really love talking to people! I love helping them figure out what services they want and helping them if they have an issue with their account.”

As for the GPC team itself, she says, “The biggest thing I love about our team is that even though we’re a large company, I feel like we are still trying to get that small company family feel.  I really love that about Great Plains as well.”

For any business to survive for a long period it must continually evolve. Great Plains Communications is a 113-year-old company serving nearly 200 Midwestern communities.  As a leading digital telecommunications leader, our core focus remains the same: customer service excellence. We believe in our high-performing network and high-performing people.

Customer loyalty depends on the customer experience, but it must be earned. It’s more than state-of-the-art technologies. It’s the people behind the innovation. It’s the teams that deliver and support the technology that make all the difference.

Josephine Bernson is the chief revenue officer at Great Plains Communications. This piece is exclusive to BroadbandBreakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Continue Reading

Digital Inclusion

Sean Gonsalves: National Digital Inclusion Alliance Hosts Largest Net Inclusion Gathering

NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer zeroed in on the need for good data.



Selfie of NDIA Executive Director Angela Seifer and Net Inclusions audience from Twitter

With nearly 1,000 in attendance at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio for the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) marquee gathering, those on the front lines of bridging the digital divide across the nation came to the three-day conference (Feb 28  to March 2) to network, share lessons, best-practices, and learn from experts as the largest ever federal investment in expanding broadband access is heading to state broadband offices this summer.

Mayor addresses attendees, acknowledges open secret of segregation

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg welcomed attendees, noting how his city was a fitting venue for the event.

“It’s no secret San Antonio is one of the most socio-economically segregated cities in the United States,” he said. “And that’s why we have zeroed-in on equity – in our budget, in who gets invited to the table.”

DeAnne Cuellar with Mayor Ron Nirenberg

Nirenberg congratulated NDIA for its work and the attendance record set by this year’s gathering. He also singled out our own outreach coordinator and San Antonio resident DeAnne Cuellar, not only lauding her work with ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks team but for her role in bringing city officials together with Older Adults Technology Services as the city commits to connecting 100,000 older adults in the city.

(ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks team, which has long worked with NDIA participated conducted a workshop, participated in several panels discussions, and hosted a special Connect This! live stream at a social mixer at The Friendly Spot Icehouse.)

“Broadband is a basic human right and is a public utility. That’s why digital inclusion is a pillar of our recovery program,” Nirenberg said, noting how that is reflected in line items in the city’s budget.

Mayor Nirenberg also spoke candidly about injustices that had been baked-in to city and state policies in the past and, whether intentional or not, excluded vulnerable communities across the city, putting them at a socio-economic disadvantage. He said that closing the digital divide was central to correcting those injustices.

He concluded his welcoming remarks encouraging attendees to “use technology to live, learn, work and thrive.”

Texas broadband office announces new network funding opportunity

Also on hand for the conference was Greg Conte, Director of the Texas Broadband Development Office. Conte announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity for $120 million in grants for the construction of new high-speed Internet infrastructure across the Lone Star State.

As projects are funded to build new infrastructure, the state can’t assume people will automatically subscribe for Internet service, as efforts to tackle affordability and adoption are equally important undertakings.

“We want to make sure communities can get online and use it,” he said. “We ask all Texans to help in this process.”

He also briefly touched on something numerous other state broadband offices are in the process of doing: beefing up staff as each state is set to receive an historic amount of federal funds from the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s BEAD program.

Conte was a guest on our Community Broadband Bits podcast last summer in which he discussed the challenges of staffing up his office and addressing the dearth of data about precisely where broadband is and isn’t available across the state.

Engaging other sectors in the work of advocating for more ACP funding

Batting clean-up was NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer, who first zeroed in on the need for good data that shows and measures how local digital equity programs are working, and how those efforts can be improved.

Angela Siefer speaking at Net Inclusion

And while quality robust data is vital, she said, it is also worth thinking about who benefits from expanded broadband access (beyond individual end-users) and how data and stories about digital inclusion initiatives can be used to engage industries and sectors of society who may not see bridging the digital divide as an urgent concern.

That includes the necessity of getting more than just Internet service providers at the table. Buy-in from healthcare providers, educational leaders, captains of retail and commerce, as well as transportation planners and housing officials should be engaged in helping to make broadband available especially for residents who struggle with affordability.

Specifically as it relates to commerce, Siefer noted, “the savings that can come from conducting certain business online can be invested into access.”

Siefer also emphasized the value of digital equity advocates sharing the stories they encounter of the lives impacted by their work with those who may not be tuned into the connectivity crisis that still plagues even such a technologically-sophisticated nation as the U.S.

Lastly, Siefer reminded the attendees that the federal funding that supports the Affordable Connectivity Program will run in the next year or so without additional appropriation from Congress.

“We need more money for the ACP,” she said, adding that it was important for state and local leaders to be pushing their Congressional representatives to replenish the ACP’s coffers.

“The long term plan is that the Universal Service Fund needs to be fixed but that is going to take time. The ACP will run out of funds before the USF is fixed,” she said.

Before the general assembly dispersed to a variety of focused workshops and breakout groups, Siefer ended with a note of encouragement: “Remember you guys are the heroes. You do the work on the ground. But NDIA has your back.”

Watch the plenary sessions below. Also, stay tuned for our new podcast series Building for Digital Equity, which will debut soon and feature interviews with dozens of frontline digital inclusion practitioners discussing the work they are doing in their local communities.

This article originally appeared on the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Community Broadband Networks project on March 2, 2023, and is reprinted with permission.

Continue Reading

Digital Inclusion

NTIA Seeks Comment on How to Spend $2.5 Billion in Digital Equity Act

National Telecommunications and Information Administration is seeking comment on how to structure the programs.



Photo of Veneeth Iyengar of ConnectLA

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Wednesday that it is seeking comment on how to structure the $2.5 billion that the Digital Equity Act provides to promote digital equity and inclusion. 

As part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Digital Equity Act consists of two sub-programs, the State Digital Equity Capacity grant and the Digital Equity Competitive grant. Comments will guide how the NTIA will design, regulate, and evaluate criteria for both programs. 

“We need to hear directly from those who are most impacted by the systemic barriers that prevent some from fully utilizing the Internet,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Wednesday at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s Net Inclusion event in San Antonio. 

See Commerce Secretary Raimondo’s remarks at Net Inclusion:

The request for comment is part of NTIA’s strategy to hear diverse perspectives in implementing its goal to ensure every American has the skills and capacity needed to reap the benefits of the digital economy, stated a press release. 

The $1.44 billion State Digital Equity Capacity grant will fund implementation of state digital equity plans which will strategically plan how to overcome barriers faced by communities seeking to achieve digital equity.  

Simply making investments in broadband builds is not enough, said Veneeth Iyengar, executive director of ConnectLA, speaking at a Brookings Insitution event in December. Bringing digital equity means “driving adoption, digital skills, and doing the kinds of things that we need to do to tackle the digital divide.” 

The $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive grant program will fund anchor institutions, such as schools, libraries, and nonprofits, in offering digital inclusion activities that promote internet adoption. 

“Community-anchor institutions have been and are the connective tissue that make delivering high-speed internet access possible,” said Alan Davidson, head of the NTIA at AnchorNets 2022 conference. 

This announcement follows dissent on the definition of digital discrimination. Commenters to the Federal Communications Commission disagree on whether the intent of a provider should be considered when determining if the provider participated in digital discrimination. There has been no response from the FCC. 

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast News

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner