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Broadband's Impact

NTIA Announces BroadbandUSA Effort to Assist Communities with Broadband Plans

Broadband Breakfast Staff

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Editor’s Note: The following blog post was published by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Department of Commerce on January 14, 2015. See BroadbandBreakfast.com’s take on the significance of these report at https://broadbandbreakfast.com/2015/04/important-but-overlooked-ntia-report-highlights-best-practices-for-public-private-partnerships-on-gigabit-networks/.

Over the past five years, we at NTIA have seen first-hand through our broadband grant program the power of broadband to transform lives and impact communities.  Broadband has become a cornerstone of economic growth, providing Americans the tools they need to participate in the rapidly growing digital economy.

NTIA invested more than $4 billion in grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption.  Through those projects, we’ve made significant progress.  Our grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries.  Our grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, trained more than four million people and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband.  An independent study released by NTIA today shows that these grants are projected to increase economic output by as much as $21 billion annually.

But there’s more work to be done. Investing in broadband is a matter of basic equity.  Americans who do not have access to the Internet are increasingly cut off from job opportunities, educational resources, healthcare information and even government services.  Communities that do not have high-speed infrastructure are increasingly at a disadvantage in attracting new businesses and new jobs and competing in today’s knowledge-based economy. Since 2009, broadband adoption has increased more than 12 percent in the United States and stands at 72 percent according to our latest reported data.  That is a healthy growth rate but it still means that almost a quarter of U.S. households are not online at home.

President Obama today is announcing a number of additional steps to help more Americans get access to fast, affordable and reliable broadband. And at NTIA, rest assured that we will remain at the forefront of federal efforts to ensure that all Americans share in the promise and potential of the digital economy.  We’ve learned about what works and we’ve heard what communities need.  And we’re eager to share the knowledge and expertise we’ve accumulated over the last few years.  Today I’m happy to unveil our BroadbandUSA initiative aimed at finding new ways to assist communities seeking to ensure their citizens have the broadband capacity they need to advance economic development, education, health care, and public safety.

As part of BroadbandUSA, we will share the lessons learned and best practices developed by companies, state and local governments, and other organizations that received our grants.  We will use everything from toolkits and training programs, to webinars and workshops, to provide technical assistance, funding leads and basic guidance to communities as they grow their broadband capacity and use.

We are also releasing today a new Public Private Partnership primer, which provides a basic introduction to a variety of partnership models for communities considering new broadband projects.  The primer provides a high-level overview of steps to establish partnerships, and presents case studies of successful public-private broadband partnerships.

Building on the primer, we are now putting together a toolkit to assist communities that want to increase the level of broadband infrastructure and adoption in their areas.  This guide will provide solid and field-tested advice on how to establish effective partnerships, develop useful applications and build projects that will sustain themselves for years to come.  It will also include ideas targeting small business.

Next month, we’ll hold our third in a series of regional broadband workshops in Jackson, Mississippi.  The workshops are designed bring together stakeholders – including local, state and federal officials, community leaders, industry executives, private foundations and broadband advocates – to discuss the challenges and solutions for communities seeking to expand broadband.  We intend to host a series of additional broadband workshops around the country throughout the year.

Another way we are helping communities is through our broadband adoption toolkit, published in 2013, that serves as a reference manual for municipalities and other organizations that want to increase the level of adoption in their communities.  The toolkit contains clear, sensible advice, as well as lots of practical ideas and tips, for bringing all sorts of people online – from senior citizens who may never have touched a mouse before to minority populations who might not even speak English.

The bottom line is that we have made important strides in expanding broadband access and adoption but there is still work to be done.  And NTIA will be leading the charge.

For more information on BroadbandUSA, visit www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandusa or email [email protected].

Source: www.ntia.doc.gov

An extremely important blog post and report, and which might have been overlooked in the coverage of President Obama’s community-based broadband initiative, at https://broadbandbreakfast.com/2015/01/white-house-supports-growing-national-movement-of-local-leaders-for-gigabit-networks/

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Broadband's Impact

FCC to Vote On Emergency Broadband Benefit Policies By Mid-May: Rosenworcel

The agency is expected to vote on policies for the $3.2B program by mid-May to ensure proper implementation, chairwoman says.

Derek Shumway

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April 14, 2021 – Jessica Rosenworcel, the chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, said Tuesday the agency will be voting by mid-May on policies to deliver the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which has received over 9,000 interested institutions through its portal.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 that passed Congress in December 2020, which provides up to $50 in a monthly internet discount for families and $75 for tribal lands to access broadband internet.

It’s “the nation’s largest ever broadband affordability program,” Rosenworcel said Tuesday on a virtual panel hosted by Allvanza, an advocacy group for Latinxs and underserved communities within the technology, telecommunications and innovation industries; the Multicultural Media Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC); and the Asian Pacific American Advocate group (OCA).

It’s “designed to make sure we get every household in this country connected to high-speed Internet service because this pandemic has proven like nothing before,” she added.

The FCC made a sign-up portal on its website to determine interest in the program, and over 9,000 institutions have signed up to date, Rosenworcel said, adding she hopes the policies for the EBB can address the homework gap by extending internet subsidies normally reserved for schools and libraries to households.

Evelyn Remaley, acting assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information and acting National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator, said minority-aimed broadband initiatives have done great work in bringing together providers and companies with minority-serving institutions.

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Digital Inclusion

Virt Seeks To Serve As The Hub To Find And Join Virtual Events

Launched last week, virt.com hopes to take advantage of the rise in virtual events by crowdsourcing them in one place.

Tim White

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Photo of GHS co-founder Victor Zonana, left, from Global Health New Zealand

April 13, 2021 – Global Health Strategies, the global advocacy group focused on health and policy, last week launched Virt.com, a new open-source media platform that crowdsources virtual events on various issues.

Those “issue channels” include health, Covid-19, climate and environment, gender, food and nutrition and human rights. It relies on users in different regions posting about upcoming events in those categories.

The launch last week coincided with a new ad campaign called Unmutetheworld, focused on digital equity around the world with the belief that internet access is a human right. It includes partnering with groups like National Digital Inclusion Alliance and grassroots organizations in many different countries.

“The pandemic has transformed our lives. The way we connect, the way we celebrate, the way we mourn, the way we work, access healthcare and learn, has changed,” GHS CEO David Gold said in an interview. “Broadband allows us to connect virtually even during the pandemic, but so many people don’t have access to the internet, they cannot connect, and we have to change that,” he said.

Gold described Virt as a way to connect people globally to meaningful conversations about health, science, policy, technology, among other topics. “We have a window of opportunity right now with the pandemic to really change. Despite all the terrible effects of COVID-19, we have this moment in time to make the case for big investments,” he said.

Gold highlighted the work of GHS and the Unmutetheworld campaign to connect people across different nations. “Broadband access comes to the heart of economic development, we have to take that momentum in the U.S. and expand it around the world,” he said.

Broadband is becoming increasingly more important, with more people working, schooling, or using health services virtually than ever before due to the pandemic.

Broadband central to digital activities

“Broadband used to be a ‘nice to have,’ now it is a ‘must have,’” Angela Siefer, executive director at NDIA, said in an interview. “Twenty years ago, we were worried about having enough computers in a classroom and lucky that one of them connected to the internet, but that has changed now, and we need to keep up with the technology. It permeates our whole lives,” she said.

President Joe Biden recently announced a new $2.3-trillion infrastructure proposal called the American Jobs Plan, which includes $100 billion for broadband programs over eight years. Congress has also recently introduced legislation on broadband initiatives, including $100 billion as part of the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT America Act, sponsored by the Democratic delegation on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“We are excited about the potential of these government initiatives, not just for funding deployment, but also to address affordability, digital literacy skills and devices,” Siefer said. “We’ve never had this much awareness about broadband issues. We’re seeing real ideas being put into action.”

Siefer also mentioned state-level efforts to expand broadband, including recent legislation in New York and Maryland. Maryland plans to spend $300 million of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan on broadband programs, including infrastructure, subsidies for fees and devices, and grants for municipal broadband. New York state recently announced the 2022 fiscal year budget including a $300 billion infrastructure package that contains broadband subsidies for low-income residents and an emergency fund to provide economically-disadvantaged students with free internet access.

“We’re seeing a shift to address adoption and affordability at both the state and federal level, where previously we only saw discussion of availability,” Siefer said. “It’s not just about unserved and underserved areas when it comes to digital equity, because the infrastructure might be there, but people are not participating in broadband for a variety of reasons,” she said. “Affordability and digital literacy lock people out. New programs aim to solve that problem and get people connected.”

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Education

Libraries Must Be Vigilant To Ensure Adequate Broadband, Consultants Say

Derek Shumway

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Photo of Stephanie Stenberg via Internet2

April 7, 2021 – Libraries should monitor their broadband speeds and ensure they are getting quality connections, according to library consultants.

Carson Block from Carson Block Consulting and Stephanie Stenberg of the Internet2 Community Anchor program told a virtual conference hosted by the American Library Association on Tuesday that it’s time libraries take a closer look at how they are getting broadband and if they are getting the speeds they are paying for. If not, they said they should re-negotiate.

Block and Stenberg shared details about the “Towards Gigabit Libraries” (TGL) toolkit, a free, self-service guide for rural and tribal libraries to better understand and improve their broadband. The new toolkit helps libraries prepare for E-Rate internet subsidy requests to aid their budget cycles.

It also has tips about communicating effectively between library and tech people since there is a gap in knowledge between those two groups. The TGL is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Gigabit Libraries and Beyond (GLG) to improve the toolkit and expand throughout the United States. In addition to focusing on rural and tribal libraries, now urban libraries will be included for support.

During the event, a live poll showed all participating attendees said they “very infrequently” had technical IT support available in their home libraries. Stenberg said this confirmed TGL’s findings that libraries need more tech and IT support, as the majority of respondents in previous surveys gave similar concerning results.

To really emphasize the need for adequate broadband and support at libraries, another question was asked to live attendees about their current level of expertise around procuring and delivering access to broadband as a service in their library, assuming that the majority of attendees worked for libraries. All participants said they possess “no experience” trying to get broadband in the library.

Common issues that are to blame include libraries with insufficient bandwidth, data wiring or poorly set-up networks. Old and obsolete equipment also contributed to bad Wi-Fi coverage.

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