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Rural Broadband Focus Increasingly Necessary in Infrastructure Package, Say Blackburn and Panelists at Brookings

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WASHINGTON, July 25, 2017 – Rural areas of Tennessee have lost business because they don’t have access to high-speed internet, Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn said Monday at a panel on broadband infrastructure hosted by the Brookings Institution.

Trump was aggressively pushing new infrastructure, said Blackburn, the chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee. Of the 19 counties she represents, 16 are rural, she said. When she goes into meetings with her constituents, the number one infrastructure issue is usually about broadband.

A woman raising a daughter and going back to college for nursing has to webstream some of her classes, she said. It took her four hours just to stream a lecture that lasted 45 minutes, Blackburn said.

The lack of broadband creates an opportunity gap, she said. But broadband can drive jobs, access to healthcare and educational opportunity.

The U.S. needs an investment of $130 billion to $150 billion in fiber infrastructure over the next five to seven years to meet the need, she said, citing a Deloitte analysis. She said unserved areas should be the first focus.

She also criticized the net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration Federal Communications Commission, saying that they had delayed the deployment of broadband – and that the agency’s rules are being revisited.

Brad Gillen, executive vice president of CTIA – the Wireless Association, , said he was pleased that discussions of infrastructure now involve broadband. That was not necessarily the case a year ago, during the presidential campaign.

Gillen also said that government funding will be necessary to address the digital.

Rick Cimerman, vice president of external and state affairs at NCTA – the Internet and Television Association, said that broadband investment will be driven by the private sector because the government’s resources are limited.

David Goldman, chief counsel for the Democrats on the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, focused on H.R. 2479, the “Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act,” (LIFT Act),  introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey. The bill aims to fund broadband internet, water, electrical and other infrastructure expenditures over five years.

The first section of the bill deals with broadband and sets aside $40 billion to ensure broadband communications technology is available to 98 percent of the population, he said. Goldman said that the bill prioritizes the unserved, and that the highest speed can’t be reached everywhere.

Jonathan Adelstein, CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, said more spectrum is needed from the government. He also said rural areas place barriers to broadband because people don’t want towers in their backyards. When that happens, there’s no chance of getting broadband there.

Adelstein did appreciate the bipartisanship between the Republicans and Democrats.

“What I heard really today was an agreement upon the big issues about the need for getting this job done,” Adelstein said. “It’s really encouraging, I think, that there’s a recognition of broadband is something of a national treasure.”

Cimerman said there is a problem between the served and unserved, and he made a buffet analogy to get his point across.

“Once I gotten my plate and I’m gone and eating, I don’t go back in the line until all those little old ladies and all the kids and everyone else is gone through the line,” Cimerman said.

The underserved have at least something already, and there is a need to prioritize people who have nothing at all, Cimerman said.

(Photo by Casey Ryan.)

 

Education

National Non-Profit to Launch Joint Initiative to Close Broadband Affordability and Homework Gap

EducationSuperHighway is signing up partners and will launch November 4.

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Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of Education Super Highway.

WASHINGTON, October 18, 2021 – National non-profit Education Super Highway is set to launch a campaign next month that will work with internet service providers to identify students without broadband and expand programs that will help connect the unconnected.

On November 4, the No Home Left Offline initiative will launch to close the digital divide for 18 million American households that “have access to the Internet but can’t afford to connect,” according to a Monday press release.

The campaign will publish a detailed report with “crucial data insights into the broadband affordability gap and the opportunities that exist to close it,” use data to identify unconnected households and students, and launch broadband adoption and free apartment Wi-Fi programs in Washington D.C.

The non-profit and ISPs will share information confidentially to identify students without broadband at home and “enable states and school districts to purchase Internet service for families through sponsored service agreements,” the website said.

The initiative will run on five principles: identify student need, have ISPs create sponsored service offerings for school districts or other entities, set eligibility standards, minimize the amount of information necessary to sign up families, and protect privacy.

The non-profit said 82 percent of Washington D.C.’s total unconnected households – a total of just over 100,000 people – have access to the internet but can’t afford to connect.

“This ‘broadband affordability gap’ keeps 47 million Americans offline, is present in every state, and disproportionately impacts low-income, Black, and Latinx communities,” the release said. “Without high-speed Internet access at home, families in Washington DC can’t send their children to school, work remotely, or access healthcare, job training, the social safety net, or critical government services.”

Over 120 regional and national carriers have signed up for the initiative.

The initiative is another in a national effort to close the “homework gap.” The Federal Communications Commission is connected schools, libraries and students using money from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is subsidizing devices and connections. It has received $5 billion in requested funds in just round one.

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Federal Communications Commission Says $5 Billion Requested for Emergency Connectivity Fund — in Just Round One!

The program is designed to help schools, libraries and students.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 25, 2021—Two months after launching the first round of applications, the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that the Emergency Connectivity Fund has received more than $5 billion in funding requests.

The requests, which came from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, are for 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections.

The $7-billion program, whose first round closed August 13, provides funding for schools and libraries to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and general connectivity is expected to help students stay connected at school and off school premises, addressing the “homework gap” made paramount during the pandemic.

The money is to be used for said services and devices purchased between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. The program will open a second round for applications due to a spike in new coronavirus cases, which will run from September 28 to October 13.

“The Emergency Connectivity Fund is the single largest effort to bring connectivity and devices to students who lack them – and this robust response from applicants shows the tremendous need in our communities,” FCC acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a Wednesday press release.

“This funding is an important down payment in closing the Homework Gap so that all children, regardless of their circumstances or where they live, have access to the tools they need to succeed,” she added.

Congress authorized the program as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The FCC has previously noted that the Emergency Broadband Benefit had proved out that there is demand for such a program and that the ECF would help fill the gap.

Breakdown by state

The FCC included a breakdown of the first-round requests by state. California was the top requester at roughly $812 million, followed by New York with $559 million, Texas with $496 million, Florida with $264 million, New Jersey with $225 million, Arizona with $200 million, Illinois at $197 million, Georgia $183 million, North Carolina with $149 million, Michigan with $108 million, Ohio with $103 million, and Puerto Rico with $102 million, and Washington rounding out the 9-digit requesters with $101 million.

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Education

NTIA Releases Details on Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Project

The $285-million program will help connect minority educational institutions.

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Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

August 4, 2021–The agency managing telecommunications policy for the commerce department has released details Tuesday on eligibility for its $285-million grant program for broadband access for minority educational institutions.

The Connecting Minority Communities pilot program, announced in June, will address the lack of broadband access, connectivity and equity at historically Black colleges or universities, Tribal colleges or universities, and minority-serving institutions.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a notice of funding opportunity for the program, established via the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, which will grant funds to eligible recipients to purchase broadband service or equipment, hire IT personnel, operate a minority business enterprise or a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, and facilitate educational instruction, including remote instruction.

Eligible institutions include 501 Hispanic-serving institutions, 336 Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, 104 predominantly Black institutions, 102 historically Black colleges and universities, 66 Alaska native-serving institutions and native Hawaiian-serving institutions, 37 Tribal colleges and universities, and 32 native American-serving non-Tribal institutions.

The deadline to submit applications is December 1, 2021.

“Communities of color have faced systemic barriers to affordable broadband access since the beginning of the digital age,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in a press release.

“The investments we make as part of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program will help communities that are struggling with access, adoption and connectivity, and will inform our path forward as we seek to finally close the digital divide across the country,” she added.

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