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Broadband's Impact

Former Architect of National Broadband Plan Says That Every City Needs a Broadband Plan

September 14, 2015 – Every city should create a city-wide broadband plan of its own, said the former director of the National Broadband Plan, in wide-ranging speech touting four strategies useful for different types of city broadband plans.

Speaking on Friday at the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Officers annual conference in San Diego, Blair Levin of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and the group Gig-U, said that every city should tackle four key strategies: (1) Getting fiber deeper into neighborhoods; (2) Using community WiFi; (3) Getting everyone online; and (4) Promoting innovative civic applications for broadband.

Levin, the former architect of the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband plan, crafted from 2009 to 2010, said that the United States was about the 20th country to adopt such a plan for the deployment of high-speed internet. Nearly 150 countries have one now.

“With cities, we’re where we were with countries in 2010. Several dozen have them,” Levin said. “But now, such a plan is becoming table stakes for any city that wants its residents to be part of the 21st Century Information Economy.”

In his remarks, Levin addressed the pivotal role that Google Fiber has played in spurring the development of Gigabit Networks. Indeed, on Thursday, Google announced upcoming fiber-optic deployments in three new cities: Irvine, Calif., Louisville, Kentucky; and San Diego.

He categories the types of cities, and they relative trajectories towards Gigabit Networks, as follows:

“The first set of communities is those that either have or are likely to see Google Fiber enter. For these, the starting strategy is pretty simple. Accelerate to the extent possible, Google’s entry.” Whether or not Google comes, such cities will be well-situated for others, as well.

Blair Levin

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Drew Clark

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September 14, 2015 – Every city should create a city-wide broadband plan of its own, said the former director of the National Broadband Plan, in wide-ranging speech touting four strategies useful for different types of city broadband plans.

Speaking on Friday at the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Officers annual conference in San Diego, Blair Levin of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and the group Gig-U, said that every city should tackle four key strategies: (1) Getting fiber deeper into neighborhoods; (2) Using community WiFi; (3) Getting everyone online; and (4) Promoting innovative civic applications for broadband.

Blair Levin

Blair Levin, Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and Gig-U

Levin, the former architect of the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband plan, crafted from 2009 to 2010, said that the United States was about the 20th country to adopt such a plan for the deployment of high-speed internet. Nearly 150 countries have one now.

“With cities, we’re where we were with countries in 2010. Several dozen have them,” Levin said. “But now, such a plan is becoming table stakes for any city that wants its residents to be part of the 21st Century Information Economy.”

In his remarks, Levin addressed the pivotal role that Google Fiber has played in spurring the development of Gigabit Networks. Indeed, on Thursday, Google announced upcoming fiber-optic deployments in three new cities: Irvine, Calif., Louisville, Kentucky; and San Diego.

He categories the types of cities, and they relative trajectories towards Gigabit Networks, as follows:

“The first set of communities is those that either have or are likely to see Google Fiber enter. For these, the starting strategy is pretty simple. Accelerate to the extent possible, Google’s entry.” Whether or not Google comes, such cities will be well-situated for others, as well.

Indeed, just days before Levin spoke, Gigi Sohn, counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, encouraged cities not to wait for Google or other telecom providers: “Rather than wait for incumbent ISPs to build the network your cities want and need, you can take control of your own broadband futures,” she said.

Levin’s “second set of communities are those that don’t fit the Google algorithm but are large, dense communities. These would include New York, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These communities may not be able to attract Google and the competitive responses that always follow. But they have the scale, the staff and the demographics to create an attractive next generation investment case.”

“The third set of communities are those smaller communities that may not attract a Google or have the scale to attract what L.A. has done, they still can attract private capital to accelerate next generation deployments.”

Increasingly, there are a range of companies and players seek to fill these too-small-for-Google cities with an arrange of approaches — including public-private collaborations that will build Gigabit Networks.

For Levin, “there is a fourth set of communities that are largely rural. They will not have any Gigabit Network unless the government funds it.”

Whether you are in or representing any one of the four classes of communities about which Levin spoke, he urged cities to adopt the four tools, particularly getting fiber deeper into the communities.

He did note that “there are lots of trade-offs. As our Gig.U handbook discusses, communities have to understand the trade-offs between, for example risk v. control, scale v. quick decision making, ROI for private capital v. universal coverage, among others.

“Each community should understand and make the trade-offs that best serve their residents,” Levin said.

He also addressed the importance of using civic resources for building WiFi deployments off such fiber networks, making concerted efforts to ameliorate the digital divide, and helping spur innovative application for civic usage.

The full speech is available here at Benton.org web site.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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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