WASHINGTON, November 4, 2017 — More than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s communications infrastructure, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Friday announced that he will travel to the island territory on Sunday to observe the recovery process and assess the pace of efforts to restore communications on the hurricane-ravaged United States territory.
The Chairman’s announcement came following Tuesday’s release of an order promulgating new temporary rules to allow hurricane-damaged schools and libraries the use of Universal Service Fund E-Rate funding to rebuild their communications infrastructure.
The order specifying these new temporary rules — which had been announced before the agency October 24 open meeting — was delayed while commissioners considered its approval in a format outside of an official meeting.
“This order would provide targeted financial support to these institutions through the FCC’s E-rate program and give them maximum flexibility as they try to restore connectivity,” Pai said in an October 26 statement, announcing that the item would be considered through a process known as “circulation.”
The FCC is specifying their process to obtain E-Rate funding
To be eligible for E-Rate rebuilding funds under the temporary rules, applicants must certify that they are located in one of the counties affected by the hurricanes, that there has been “substantial damage” to the infrastructure used to provide E-Rate eligible services, and that the damage to their communications infrastructure is hurricane-related.
Even if those criteria are met, however, applicants will only receive funding under the temporary rules if no other funding is available from any other source, such as insurance payments, Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance funds, or any manner of funding from community organizations.
While the rules governing the E-Rate program normally require that any service substitutions paid for with USF funding (such as switching to a fixed wireless connection to serve a location once served by a wireline connection) must provide the same functionality, the temporary rules specified by the order waive this requirement, allowing funds that would normally be restricted to use for restoring Internet access to be used to purchase equipment to restore internal connectivity within a facility as well.
But for any broadband advocates who might have hope that the effort to rebuild Puerto Rico’s communications infrastructure could present an opportunity to improve the island’s high-speed networks, those hopes will likely remain unfulfilled. A provision in the temporary rules specifying that “any additional E-rate funding received pursuant to this Order will be used solely to restore E-rate eligible services to the level of functionality that immediately preceded the Hurricanes.”
An FCC spokesperson confirmed to BroadbandBreakfast.com that the FCC’s decision to make use of E-Rate funds for rebuilding should not be considered an indicator of any desire to improve communications capacity. The sole purpose of the program will be to restore services to the status quo as it existed before the hurricane, the spokesperson said.
O’Rielly raised concerns that the E-Rate order is not enough, and urged action by Congress
But even while applauding the release of these limited USF funds, Republican Commissioner Mike O’Rielly — who voted to approve the order along with the rest of his colleagues — voiced concerns that they may not be sufficient given the sheer magnitude of the devastation wrought by the 2017 hurricane season, and suggested in a statement that Congress should get involved.
“Because of our budget limitations, providing additional funding from universal service generally comes at the expense of other recipients,” O’Rielly said.
“Targeted funding from Congress would ensure that qualifying providers and beneficiaries receive the relief needed to rebuild and restore service without impeding the important work of other universal service program participants to connect unserved communities.”
During a Wednesday press conference, Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn expressed satisfaction in the response to the Puerto Rico situation by her colleagues “both individually and collectively,” and told reporters that she had heard no complaints from any of the stakeholders she has met with.
“We are right there answering the call and will continue to do so,” she said. “We are in it for the long haul.”
(Photo from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group, augmented by troops from the active-duty Air Force and Air National Guard units in multiple states, dowload relief supplies from aircraft around the clock at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the wake of Hurricane Maria Oct. 6, 2017. Photo by U.S. Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dale Greer used with permission.)
Broadband is Affordable for Middle Class, NCTA Claims
According to analysis, the middle class spends on average $69 per month on internet service.
WASHINGTON, November 22, 2022 – Even as policymakers push initiatives to make broadband less expensive, primarily for low-income Americans, broadband is already generally affordable for the middle class, argued Rick Cimerman, vice president of external and state affairs at industry group NCTA, the internet and television association.
Availability of broadband is not enough, many politicians and experts argue, if other barriers – e.g., price – prevent widespread adoption. Much focus has been directed toward boosting adoption among low-income Americans through subsidies like the Affordable Connectivity Program, but legally, middle-class adoption must also be considered. In its notice of funding opportunity for the $42.5-billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration required each state to submit a “middle-class affordability plan.”
During a webinar held earlier this month, Cimerman, who works for an organization that represents cable operators, defined the middle class as those who earn $45,300–$76,200, basing these boundaries on U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics for 2020. And based on the text of an Federal Communications Commission action from 2016, he set the threshold of affordability for broadband service at two percent of monthly household income.
According to his analysis, the middle class, thus defined, spends on average $69 per month on internet service. $69 is about 1.8 percent of monthly income for those at the bottom of Cimerman’s middle class and about 1.1 percent of monthly income for those at the top. Both figures fall within the 2-percent standard, and Cimerman stated that lower earners tended to spend slightly less on internet than the $69-per-month average.
Citing US Telecom’s analysis of the FCC’s Urban Rate Survey, Cimerman presented data that show internet prices dropped substantially from 2015 to 2021 – decreasing about 23 percent, 26 percent, and 39 percent for “entry-level,” “most popular” and “highest-speed” residential plans, respectively. And despite recent price hikes on products such as gas, food, and vehicles, Cimerman said, broadband prices had shrunk 0.1 percent year-over-year as of September 2022.
Widespread adoption is important from a financial as well as an equity perspective, experts say. Speaking at the AnchorNets 2022 conference, Matt Kalmus, managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group, argued that providers rely on high subscription rates to generate badly needed network revenues.
Federal Communications Commission Mandates Broadband ‘Nutrition’ Labels
The FCC also mandated that internet service provider labels be machine-readable.
WASHINGTON, November 18, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday afternoon ordered internet providers to display broadband “nutrition” labels at points of sale that include internet plans’ performance metrics, monthly rates, and other information that may inform consumers’ purchasing decisions.
The agency released the requirement less than 24 hours before it released the first draft of its updated broadband map.
The FCC mandated that labels be machine-readable, which is designed to facilitate third-party data-gathering and analysis. The commission also requires that the labels to be made available in customers’ online portals with the provide the and “accessible” to non-English speakers.
In addition to the broadband speeds promised by the providers, the new labels must also display typical latency, time-of-purchase fees, discount information, data limits, and provider-contact information.
“Broadband is an essential service, for everyone, everywhere. Because of this, consumers need to know what they are paying for, and how it compares with other service offerings,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.
“For over 25 years, consumers have enjoyed the convenience of nutrition labels on food products. We’re now requiring internet service providers to display broadband labels for both wireless and wired services. Consumers deserve to get accurate information about price, speed, data allowances, and other terms of service up front.”
Industry players robustly debated the proper parameters for broadband labels in a flurry of filings with the FCC. Free Press, an advocacy group, argued for machine-readable labels and accommodations for non-English speakers, measures which were largely opposed by trade groups. Free Press also advocated a requirement that labels to be included on monthly internet bills, without which the FCC “risks merely replicating the status quo wherein consumers must navigate fine print, poorly designed websites, and byzantine hyperlinks,” group wrote.
“The failure to require the label’s display on a customer’s monthly bill is a disappointing concession to monopolist ISPs like AT&T and Comcast and a big loss for consumers,” Joshua Stager, policy director of Free Press, said Friday.
The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association clashed with Free Press in its FCC filing and supported the point-of-sale requirement.
“WISPA welcomes today’s release of the FCC’s new broadband label,” said Vice President of Policy Louis Peraertz. “It will help consumers better understand their internet access purchases, enabling them to quickly see ‘under the hood,’ and allow for an effective apples-to-apples comparison tool when shopping for services in the marketplace.”
Midterm Control of Congress Remains Uncertain, But States Got Answers to Broadband Votes
Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Kansas and Pennsylvania had broadband-related measures on the ballot.
As voters went to the polls on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, broadband-focused initiatives and candidates could be found up and down the ballot all across the country.
Alabama voters cast their ballots to decide on a state Constitutional amendment known as the Broadband Internet Infrastructure Funding Amendment. The measure sought to amend the state’s constitution “to allow local governments to use funding provided for broadband internet infrastructure under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and award such funds to public or private entities.”
That measure passed, garnering a “Yes” vote from nearly 80 percent of Alabama voters. With 73 percent of the vote counted late last night, 922,145 “Yes” votes had been tallied with 251,441 “No” votes.
Also in Alabama, Democratic U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell won her re-election bid to represent Alabama’s 7th congressional district. Sewell, whose district covers a large swath of the Alabama Black Belt, “spent much of her past two years in office bringing American Rescue Plan Act funds to rural Alabama, dedicated to healthcare, broadband access and infrastructure building,” as noted by The Montgomery Advertiser.
The Centennial State is not listed as one of 17 states in the nation with preemption laws that erect barriers to municipal broadband because nearly every community that had a vote has passed it to nullify it. But more communities had to go through that unnecessary process yesterday due to the law known as SB-152 that bans local governments in the state from establishing municipal broadband service absent a referendum.
As of spring 2022, 118 Colorado municipalities, 40 counties and several school districts have opted out of SB-152.
Now Colorado can add to that list.
In Pueblo County, nearly 48,000 ballots were cast with 34,457 or 72 percent, voting yes to opt out of SB 152 while 13,087 (28 percent) cast a “No” vote.
In the City of Pueblo, the county seat, Mayor Nick Gradisar told The Pueblo Chieftain that his city was not looking to build a municipal broadband network but rather to pursue a public-private partnership to bring ubiquitous high-speed Internet service to the city in a way that does not “just allow (broadband companies) to cherry pick the ones that can pay the most.”
Meanwhile, in the City of Lone Tree, one of about a dozen communities located in Douglas County, voters there overwhelmingly approved opting out of SB-152 with over 83 percent of voters casting a “Yes” ballot.
According to the city’s website, the ballot question was put to voters to enable the county to extend broadband infrastructure into Lone Tree. The website goes on to explain what opting out of SB-152 would mean for city residents and businesses:
- Along with providing support for the County’s efforts, voter approval opens a range of opportunities to improve broadband access or services. Approval would allow the conversation to begin, while not binding the City to any specific actions or timelines.
Similar to the Constitutional question voters decided in Alabama, a ballot question in New Mexico asked voters to modify the New Mexico Constitution to ensure the easy flow of broadband funding. A 1900s era portion of the state’s constitution restricts “lending, pledging credit, or donating to any person, association, or public or private corporation.”
The proposal, which was approved by the New Mexico state legislature last February, passed with a 65 to 35 percent split in favor of adding an exception to the state’s anti-donation clause that will allow the state legislature to appropriate state funds through a majority vote in each chamber for infrastructure that provides essential services such as water, sewer, electricity, and broadband.
Bipartisan Support for Expanding Broadband Access
Yes, one day after the election and it was still unclear which party will control Congress, even as political analysts pontificate on what happened to the “Red Wave.” But, this much is clear: for successful candidates in both parties, at the federal and state-level, expanding access to broadband has become a bipartisan issue.
In New York, Republican State Sen. Dan Stec won his bid re-election, building on his first victory in 2020 when he campaigned for better broadband and mobile phone service. In North Carolina, Renée Price, a Democratic state representative, was elected by a wide margin. During the campaign, Price said her priorities are funding a range of initiatives and that she was particularly focused on increasing access to broadband.
Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Rick Allen was re-elected to represent Georgia’s 12th Congressional District. Allen said he would “continue to fight for the priorities of the 12th District like securing funding for Fort Gordon and the Savannah River Site, expanding rural broadband, and supporting our farmers and rural America.”
In Kansas, where Republican Congressman Mark Alford was elected to represent Missouri’s staunchly conservative 4th Congressional District, Alford told The Kansas City Star that as he campaigned “’on just about every back road of the district, all 24 counties,’ he heard that the No. 1 issue in the district is lack of rural broadband access.”
Over in Pennsylvania, where Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro won the race to be that battleground state’s next Governor, Shapiro’s campaign told Spotlight PA “he will prioritize expanding quality and affordable access to broadband in rural regions of the state by supporting the newly created Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, and establishing comprehensive subsidies for low-income households with high [I]nternet prices.”
And finally, in Texas, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott fended off a challenge from Beto O’Rourke, in the less sexy race for State Comptroller, Republican incumbent Glenn Hegar won his re-election bid in which he touted his record championing the expansion of broadband in the Lone Star State.
Eye On State Legislatures
States are now beefing up or establishing state broadband offices to award billions of dollars for the deployment of new or expanded broadband infrastructure thanks to an historic infusion of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). With those bills already passed and the midterm elections behind us, most of the action on the broadband front will rest in the hands of state lawmakers.
The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that “with roughly 9 out of 10 adults in America using the Internet, many consider it to be a necessity of modern life,” which is why there are numerous pieces of broadband-related legislation that was enacted or is pending in the 2022 legislative session.
- In the 2022 legislative session, 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have pending and enacted legislation addressing broadband in issue areas such as educational institutions and schools, dig once, funding, governance authorities and commissions, infrastructure, municipal-run broadband networks, rural and underserved communities, smart communities and taxes. Twenty-six jurisdictions enacted legislation or adopted resolutions: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
Authored by Sean Gonsalves, this article originally appeared on the web site of the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Community Broadband Broadband Networks Project on November 9, 2022, and is reprinted with permission.
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Broadband Breakfast Research Partner
LEO Technology Could Connect the Unconnected, Although Capacity Questions Remain
Ye Suspended From Twitter, FCC Issues Licenses, Streamlining ReConnect
Jeff Miller: Tools to Manage the Next-Generation Network Buildouts
Senators Join CFTB’s Chairman in Calling for Crypto Regulation in Light of FTX Implosion
FCC December Agenda, Biden to Visit TSMC plant, Weak Economy Presents Cyber Problem
Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah to Receive Nearly $1 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funds
States Face Roadblocks in Challenge Processes, FCC Tries to Facilitate
U.S. Must Lead on International Tech Standards to Counter Chinese Influence: Raimondo
Vermont Challenges FCC Fabric, BTX Gets President, Starlink Performance Dip
Interference Concerns with FCC Raised Over Wi-Fi in 6 GigaHertz Band
BAI Buys 1,100 Fiber Miles of Network, Workforce Training Partnership, New Executive at US Cellular
Carr Advocates Release of More Spectrum as Deadline to Extend FCC Auction Authority Looms
Report Urges States, Local Governments Follow Federal Rules on Prohibited Equipment Purchases
FCC Releases National Broadband Map Amid Controversy
Federal Communications Commission Mandates Broadband ‘Nutrition’ Labels
Senators Push Bill to Make Broadband Grants Non-Taxable By Year-End
‘It Is a Concern’: FCC Contractor Responds to Commercial Conflict Concerns Over Map Challenge Process
Concerns About Tribal Funding from NTCA, Ed Markey and Twitter Verification, T-Mobile 5G
Anniversary of Infrastructure Act, Gigi Sohn Has a Real Shot at FCC, West Haven Approves Utopia
Johnny Kampis: Federal Bureaucracy an Impediment to Broadband on Tribal Lands
Broadband Breakfast on November 30, 2022 – The 12 Days of Broadband
Small ISPs Face Economic, Incumbent Bundling Headwinds: CoBank Economist
Venture Capital, Private Equity and Institutional Investors on Digital Infrastructure Investment
Financing Mechanisms for Community Broadband, Panel 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment
Right Track or Wrong Track on Mapping? Panel 2 at Digital Infrastructure Investment
What’s the State of the IIJA? Panel 1 at Digital Infrastructure Investment
Broadband Breakfast on December 28, 2022 – New Year Recap: Biggest Stories in Broadband
Broadband Breakfast on December 21, 2022, – Robotics, Telehealth and Future Health
Broadband Breakfast on December 14, 2022 – In the Trenches: Better Broadband for Multi-Dwelling Units
Keynote Address and Q&A at Digital Infrastructure Investment
Cybersecurity3 weeks ago
Internet of Things Devices May Provide a Weak Point for Cybersecurity, Says CableLabs
Broadband Roundup4 weeks ago
6 GHz Wi-Fi Coordination Systems, Tribal Data Partnership, Free Speech on Twitter
Artificial Intelligence4 weeks ago
AI Should Compliment and Not Replace Humans, Says Stanford Expert
Innovation4 weeks ago
Semiconductor Export Restrictions Could Harm U.S. Companies, Industry Says
Broadband Roundup2 weeks ago
BAI Buys 1,100 Fiber Miles of Network, Workforce Training Partnership, New Executive at US Cellular
Fiber3 weeks ago
Fiber Providers Need to Go Beyond Speed for Differentiation, Consultant Says
Funding3 weeks ago
After FCC Map Release Date, NTIA Says Infrastructure Money to Be Allocated by June 2023
Infrastructure4 weeks ago
Broadband Breakfast Releases Video Preview of Digital Infrastructure Investment–Washington