BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: A concerning new development from Maine. Thanks to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for raising this issue through this alert. ||
Bill Introduced in Maine Legislature to Limit Local Authority over Broadband Investment, from Community Broadband Networks:
Maine State Representative Nathan Wadsworth (R-Hiram) introduced a bill to revoke local authority over building Internet networks needed by local businesses and residents. The one-time Maine state ALEC chair introduced HP 1040 (also cross filed as LD 1516) to advantage the big cable and telephone monopolies.
This bill will introduce procedural hurdles to discourage local governments from investing in modern broadband networks, including public-private partnerships with companies rooted in Maine – like GWI. Little has changed since 2014, when Gizmodo rated Maine 49th in terms of broadband Internet service. Rather than finding ways to encourage investment, this bill would have the state actually slow it.
“This effort joins a national trend of big cable and telephone companies, like Time Warner Cable and FairPoint, leaning heavily on state legislatures to protect themselves from competition,” says Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Communities do not make these investments when they are well served. If big cable and telephone companies want to preserve market share, they should invest in better services rather than crony capitalist laws.”
All States Want BEAD Funds, Digicomm Secures Investment, Glo Fiber Expanding in PA
The NTIA announced all states and territories have applied for initial planning money from the $42.5B BEAD program.
August 17, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Wednesday that all states and territories have submitted applications for initial planning funds from its $42.5 billion broadband infrastructure program.
The announcement comes two days after the deadline to apply for the funds from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, part of the federal government’s Internet for All initiative. The NTIA said in a press release it will be evaluating the applications and “make awards available as expeditiously as possible.”
The initial planning funds could be used for activities including research and data collection, outreach and communications, technical assistance to potential subgrantees, training for employees of a broadband program, establishing a broadband office, mapping, surveys identifying underserved areas, and marketing the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband subsidy program, the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Within 270 days of receiving the funds, recipients are required to submit a five-year action plan establishing the goals and priorities for internet service, which will serve as a needs assessment, the NTIA said.
“The Internet for All Initiative will provide states and territories the resources they need for thorough planning, which is essential to ensure funding is used equitably, efficiently, and effectively,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information. “I want to thank every state and territory for meeting our deadline so that we can close the digital divide as quickly and completely as possible.”
The unprecedented amount of money, which spawned from the passing of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act in November, received letters of intent to participate from all 50 states, D.C., and the territories, the NTIA announced last month.
Digicomm gets private equity investment
A private equity firm that has made investments in the likes of Charter Communications announced Tuesday it is making an investment in broadband distributor and reseller Digicomm.
Crestview Partners will make an undisclosed contribution to the Colorado-based company, which specializes in hybrid connections involving both coaxial and fiber lines for broadband.
“We believe that Crestview can support Digicomm’s growth through organic investments and M&A to expand the Company’s breadth of product and service offerings as it continues to serve as a value-added partner to its customers in the evolving broadband and communications industries,” Brian Cassidy, co-president and head of media at Crestview, said in a press release.
The investment will also involve adding John Schanz, former chief network officer at Comcast Cable, along with members of Crestview, including Cassidy, to Digicomm’s board.
Crestview has previous made investments in Congruex, WOW!, Insight Communications, Interoute Communications, and OneLink Communications.
Glo Fiber expanding in Pennsylvania
Glo Fiber announced Tuesday it has reached agreements with municipal officials to deploy direct fiber lines to homes in several areas in York County, Pennsylvania.
The areas include York Township, Dallastown Borough, Red Lion Borough, Yoe Borough, Windsor Borough, Windsor Township, and Spring Garden Township.
The subsidiary of Shenandoah Telecommunications Company said construction in the county began this month and will continue into 2023, bringing fiber and symmetrical download and upload speeds, streaming TV and unlimited local and long-distance phone service to over 24,000 homes and businesses throughout the county.
“We have a long, successful history of offering fiber service to large businesses in York County,” Chris Kyle, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs at Shentel, said in a press release. “It is exciting to continue this work by bringing Glo Fiber to thousands of county residents and businesses. Our network is capable of multi-gig service that will provide the speeds citizens need on a daily basis as well as offering a much-needed competitive choice.”
Institute for Local Self-Reliance Announces Two Initiatives to Foster Local Broadband Solutions
Urban Digital Equity Bootcamp and Let’s Get Going Broadband Program announced.
But the broadband landscape is complicated and confusing for those new to working in it. Every day, we hear from communities looking to orient themselves to the challenges and opportunities they face, and this need only seems to be growing. In response, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is excited to announce two new programs to help leaders and local government officials address their community’s needs in practical, efficient, clear-eyed ways, with sensitivity to all the things that make their community unique. ILSR has nearly 20 years of experience working on local broadband solutions that are accountable to local residents and businesses. We helped to develop the Tribal Broadband Bootcamp, and have worked with hundreds of communities from the smallest towns to the largest cities and counties.
Neither of the programs below is intended to replace existing specialized consultants. Rather, the aim is to help communities understand what their options are before they engage with consultants, so that they can be more efficient with their time.
Announcing the Urban Digital Equity Bootcamp
While most policymakers remain focused on broadband gaps in rural areas, residents of urban areas understand all too well the connectivity problems faced by those who live in cities. The greatest opportunities to achieve digital equity in urban communities is approaching, with unprecedented government and philanthropic support available to address needs long neglected. However, communities need local champions to ensure that problems are resolved in accordance with local goals.
More than 20 years of top-down solutions have failed to result in more connected, resilient communities. The Urban Digital Equity Bootcamps are instead based on the framework that bottom-up approaches, based on trust and local relationships, offer the best path forward. Modeled after the Tribal Broadband Bootcamp, and having learned lessons from the Digital Equity Leadership Lab and Broadband Accelerate approaches, we propose two-day events to develop skills and relationships as well as the needed expertise and partnerships to set and achieve digital equity goals. The program is designed to:
- Increase knowledge and confidence of participants to allow them to better take action in their communities to achieve digital equity. This includes developing familiarity with key jargon and technologies related to Internet access.
- Develop diverse cohorts and a larger human network of people sharing local strategies, challenges, and solutions.
- Demystify Internet technology through hands-on applications and small group learning
Attendees will include a diverse group of stakeholders, from local leaders to activists to the philanthropic community. A key group of attendees would include organizations that already have the trust of frontline communities – groups that understand the importance of digital equity but haven’t had the capacity to address it. In larger communities, multiple events can be tailored to fit the different needs of different neighborhoods.
The primary objective will be building knowledge and trust among local organizations so they can engage in strategic campaigns of digital inclusion. These events will need significant local coordination to be effective.
The Urban Digital Equity Bootcamps will begin this fall. Contact Community Broadband Networks Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar at email@example.com for more details, including cost.
Announcing the Let’s Get Going Broadband Program
Community broadband planning and coordinating digital inclusion ecosystems is complicated work. Cities and counties struggling to find the best tools and methodologies needed to address infrastructure and digital inclusion can find the solutions they need by participating in ILSR’s Let’s Get Going Broadband Program.
This eight-week, cohort-based program is designed to help local governments, elected officials, nonprofits, foundations, and digital equity advocates orient themselves and develop solutions. This progressive, syllabus-based program is aimed at helping participants understand local needs, evaluate options, and chart an achievable path to their goals. From leveraging existing assets, to financing, to partnerships, to evaluating available models for success, this program demystifies every step of the process.
It offers individualized advice and assistance along the way, while at the same time placing each community in a small cohort with other cities and counties aiming to solve similar problems. Each cohort will move through the Let’s Get Going Broadband Program together, sharing information, asking questions, and building a network of support along the way. It includes targeted readings, discussions facilitated by ILSR staff, interactive webinars, technical orientation, and lessons learned from fifteen years of tracking, writing about, and talking to communities that have tackled the task of improving their city infrastructure, boosting economic development, improving competition, and reaching the unserved and underserved by investing in locally owned solutions.
The first Let’s Get Going Broadband Program cohort is scheduled to begin in September. The cost per community is $15,000, and we recommend each community will select 3-5 participants to attend.
See the full program flyer with schedule here [pdf], or below.
- Cohort Building – An opportunity for a local broadband team to join a eight-week cohort with other communities in a customized curriculum to develop expertise in solving broadband challenges and taking advantage of funding opportunities.
- Trainings – 90-minute interactive webinars focused on understanding – in a commonly accessible manner – broadband technologies, challenges, and how similarly situated communities have addressed these problems.
- Technical Assistance – Eight, 2-hour technical assistance sessions rooted in local needs
- Community Progress Reports and Research – Help in developing an information-gathering project with diverse community stakeholders to define digital inclusion problems.
Contact Community Broadband Networks Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
FCC Points to Congress on USF, Texas Hires LightBox, Lit Communities Hires Lindsay Miller
The FCC will let Congress make changes to its authority to add contributors to the Universal Service Fund.
August 16, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is leaving it to Congress to institute legislative reforms to allow it to make changes to the contribution base of a fund that supports basic telecommunications services to Americans, according to its report to Congress released Monday.
The agency has been fielding comments about what it should do about the Universal Service Fund, a nearly $10-billion pot of money that goes to support broadband expansion in low-income and rural areas. The fund has been under scrutiny because it relies largely on declining voice service revenues – often passed down to customers – which has called into question its sustainability. Some have called on the agency to unilaterally expand the base to include broadband internet revenues.
But in its report on the future of the USF, the agency said its authority on making such a change to the base is not that clear.
“On review, there is significant ambiguity in the record regarding the scope of the Commission’s existing authority to broaden the base of contributors,” the report said.
“As such, we recommend Congress provide the Commission with the legislative tools needed to make changes to the contributions methodology and base in order to reduce the financial burden on consumers, to provide additional certainty for entities that will be required to make contributions, and to sustain the Fund and its programs over the long term.”
Experts have previously argued that the commission has the authority to broaden the base without requiring congressional approval. Other recommendations to support the fund include having the entire fund supported by general taxation, while another suggests having big technology companies that rely on the internet to contribute to it.
For the latter to happen, the report notes that there would need to be an examination and application of the definition of “telecommunications” to those big technology companies.
“We recommend that in considering changes to the contributions base, the Commission should closely evaluate this record and take efforts to avoid raising the cost of broadband service and shifting the financial burden from corporations to consumers at a point in time when the federal government is working to address affordability challenges contributing to the digital divide,” the report said.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who raised the idea of a contribution from Big Tech, said he was pleased the report recommends Congress provide the tools necessary for changes, including possibly expanding the base to include those new contributors.
Texas hires LightBox for broadband map
The Texas Comptroller’s Office announced this month that it is contracting LightBox, a location data company, to develop the state’s broadband availability map.
The map is said to help the comptroller’s Broadband Development Office determine which areas are in most need of broadband connectivity and thus where to invest public money. It will feature addresses including homes, businesses, public and charter schools, governmental entities, anchor institutions, military bases, community colleges and tribal areas, an August 8 press release said.
“When this map is complete, the BDO along with community leaders and members of the public will be able to extract information from the map to better understand the needs of their regions and to make better decisions establishing programs related to broadband development,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in the release.
LightBox, which is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, also has partnerships with Georgia, Alabama and Montana to develop broadband coverage maps. The company’s vice president of government solutions told Broadband Breakfast that states are making their own maps to also challenge any deficiencies in the Federal Communications Commission’s own upcoming maps – which could mean more or less federal dollars.
Lit Communities hires broadband attorney consulting president
Fiber broadband consulting company Lit Communities announced Tuesday it has hired Lindsay Miller, a parnter at Ice Miller LLP, as president of consulting.
The Alabama-based fiber construction and design firm said in a press release it frequently collaborates with Miller’s law firm on “consulting engagements that include community broadband interest assessments, service access mapping, incumbent provider analysis, and financial and network modeling.
“Lindsay Miller is well known in the community broadband space and we’re delighted to have her join our team and devote her energy and knowledge full-time to the broadband industry,” Lit founder and CEO Brian Snider said in the release. “Her passion for the business and deep connections with its many, diverse stakeholders will serve Lit and, most importantly, all of our current and future clients.”
With over 15 years of experience in broadband initiatives, Miller advises municipalities on how to utilize public-private partnerships for fiber and wireless expansion.
- All States Want BEAD Funds, Digicomm Secures Investment, Glo Fiber Expanding in PA
- Institute for Local Self-Reliance Announces Two Initiatives to Foster Local Broadband Solutions
- Broadband Breakfast on August 31, 2022 – How to Maximize Minority Participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program
- Broadband Breakfast on August 24, 2022 – Summer of Broadband: Illinois
- Panelists Take Issue with Government Preference for Fiber
- FCC Points to Congress on USF, Texas Hires LightBox, Lit Communities Hires Lindsay Miller
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