WASHINGTON, January 22, 2018 – A leaked document purporting to be an outline of the Trump Administration’s forthcoming infrastructure plan makes few provisions for broadband or other digital infrastructure outside of rural areas.
The six-page outline, which was first reported by Axios, bears the title of “Funding Principles,” and sets out four programs which will receive different percentages of the total appropriation, the amount of which has not yet been revealed.
When asked for comment on the document’s apparent lack of attention to 21st Century infrastructure programs, White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told BroadbandBreakfast.com: “We’re not going to comment on the contents of a leaked document, but we look forward to presenting our plan.”
Half of the total funds will go to an ‘Infrastructure Incentives Initiative’
One half of the total appropriated funds will go to the White House’s “Infrastructure Incentives Initiative,” which will “[encourage] state, local and private investment in core infrastructure by providing incentives in the form of grants.” Such grants will be conditioned on achieving milestones set out in grant proposals within an identified time frame.
Proposals for infrastructure grants will be solicited every six months by the federal agencies in charge of such programs, and eligible entities will be limited to states (or groups of states), Puerto Rico and other United States territories, local governments (or groups of local governments), and metropolitan planning organizations.
Eligible projects, however, will be limited to transportation infrastructure projects, including surface transportation (roads) and passenger rail, maritime and inland waterway ports, and water infrastructure projects, including flood control, water supply, hydroelectric power, and water resources projects, such as drinking water and storm water facilities. Environmental projects at Brownfield and Superfund sites will be eligible as well.
Many eligible entities would not be permitted to apply for grants for broadband projects
Not only are broadband or other digital infrastructure projects not included in the program criteria, but many of the eligible entities would not be permitted to apply for grants for broadband projects because numerous states have laws explicitly forbidding such projects.
Telecommunications projects will be eligible for ten percent of any funds appropriated under the plan through what is referred to as the “Transformative Projects Program,” which makes available federal funding and technical assistance for “innovative and transformative infrastructure projects” which are too unique for the private sector to fund.
Projects receiving funding under the TPP would have to be “exploratory and ground-breaking,” and involve both more risk and a greater reward than standard infrastructure projects.
One areas explicitly includes broadband: The ‘Rural Infrastructure Program’
The only aspect of the plan that explicitly includes broadband and telecommunications projects is the “Rural Infrastructure Program,” which would account for one quarter of any appropriated funds for projects which are “designed to encourage investment to enable rural economies.”
States participating in the RIP program would be encouraged to establish public-private partnerships, with 80 percent of any RIP funding to be made available through the governors of participating states.
The other 20 percent would be earmarked for “rural performance grants” to be made on condition of the state publishing a “comprehensive rural infrastructure improvement plan” within 180 days of receipt of any funds.
Rural grants to be distributed as block grants without significant federal requirements
RIP funds would be distributed as block grants without Federal requirements other than a mandate to use any such funds for projects in rural areas with populations under 50,000 persons.
The plan’s lack of attention to broadband and other telecommunications infrastructure is noteworthy when contrasted with the Obama Administration’s broadband programs, which were mostly implemented with funds made available under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
Under the ARRA, the Obama Administration distributed a combined $7.2 billion in loans and grants through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service’s Broadband Incentives Program.
(Photo of President Donald Trump signing a rural broadband initiative by the White House.)
British Telecoms Are Aligning with Emerging U.S. Position on Open RAN Adoption
Open RAN adoption is said to save telecoms money and boost security, as providers are forced to move off Huawei.
October 18, 2021 – Howard Watson, chief technology officer of telecommunications company BT Group, spoke on Wednesday at the Broadband World Forum about the future of the UK’s network infrastructure, including removing Huawei’s equipment from their networks and developing open radio access networks for wider use.
Speaking at the opening session titled “Building an innovative converged network infrastructure for the UK,” Watson discussed the challenges and possibilities for offering fast, secure broadband and offered O-RAN as a solution for wider connectivity.
Watson discussed utilizing open RAN to facilitate greater interoperability between vendors’ equipment, as it opens the market to more technologies due to its open configuration. The concept advocates for a more open radio access network than provided today, which is held by fewer vendors.
The Federal Communications Commission has pushed for ways to develop open RAN to minimize network security risk, as the movement has gained significant momentum since Huawei was banned over the past 18 months. FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described open RAN as having “extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”
“When customers go back into the office, the infrastructure they left behind must have key growth” Watson said, referencing the shift in office culture toward remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Expectations of customers change,” Watson said, adding that “they expect broadband to be always on, they expect high bandwidth.” Above all, “they expect investment no matter the cost.”
BT is seeking to deploy to 90 percent coverage in the UK by 2028.
On the sidelines of his keynote address, Watson noted BT’s progress in limiting Huawei products to 35 percent of an operator’s fiber access footprint by 2023. The UK government requires that Huawei’s equipment must be removed entirely by the end of 2027. The UK considers Huawei a “high risk” vendor for its network infrastructure.
However, BT is waiting for Huawei’s equipment to grow old before replacing it, Watson said. “Our intention is to ensure that we get the full economic life out of the Huawei [products] that we have deployed,” he said. He said BT believes the products can be used until 2031 or later.
“We’re in talks with government about that timeline” Watson said.
Panel discussion about European fiber investment
Watson said that “densification” happens in areas that are fiber rich, so “providing fiber to smaller cell sites is naturally an evolution.”
He said that BT is looking at a range of alternatives including Wi-Fi solutions to getting 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) capability to household through open architecture-based solutions.
In addition to Watson, a panel focused on the investment parameters for fiber investment featuring officials from Macquarie Group and Eurofiber.
The panel focused on investment challenges and strategies for broadband infrastructure investment and discussed an opportunistic vision for broadband deployment. Speaking of more mature market with a history of broadband adoption, Macquarie Managing Director Oliver Bradley asked how providers could transition to more efficiency and maximizing the value of an existing network.
Among the principal drivers for investment include co-investing and deregulation, he said.
UTOPIA Fiber Goes to Court in Utah Over American Fork’s Build Permit Refusals
Fiber builder says it has been denied permits that have harmed it and its customers, despite an existing city agreement.
October 13, 2021 – UTOPIA Fiber filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city of American Fork in Utah for breach of contract after the city allegedly denied build permits to the fiber builder despite there being an existing contract between the two parties.
The fiber provider, which runs an open network on which private telecoms rent space on to provide services, alleges the city had approved some permits that only allowed it to construct backbone transport lines through the city connecting other cities, but denied it key permits that would have allowed it to extend services to UTOPIA Fiber customers inside the city. Those services include connections to American Fork’s public schools.
In July 2020, the city allegedly terminated the 2018 rights-of-way agreement with no explanation, the lawsuit claims. It also alleges that the city specifically discriminated against UTOPIA Fiber by adding additional scrutiny to its permit requests when it believed no such scrutiny existed for other providers.
Broadband Breakfast attempted to make contact with the city, but a phone call was not answered and a voicemail message was not returned by the time of publication.
“American Fork’s refusal to approve permit requests by or for UTOPIA for service laterals for customers within American Fork has harmed UTOPIA, its customers, and the private ISPs who wish to offer services within American Fork using UTOPIA’s Network,” the lawsuit said. “In some cases, UTOPIA has been forced to buy capacity from other network providers that are allowed to install infrastructure in American Fork, so that UTOPIA can fulfill existing contracts with its customers.
“In other cases, UTOPIA has been forced to cancel existing customer orders for connections within American Fork and has lost significant revenues as a result,” the suit added. “UTOPIA has also recently been forced to cancel or reject over a dozen additional customer orders because UTOPIA is unable, due to American Fork’s conduct, to obtain the permits needed to fulfill those orders, and again lost significant revenues as a result.”
In a press release, UTOPIA’s executive director Roger Timmerman said the lawsuit was a “last resort and not an easy decision to make.
“It is our hope that with judicial review, American Fork City will reverse its policies, work within the boundaries of the law, and ultimately, act in the best interest of the people and businesses in American Fork City by allowing them access to the increased options UTOPIA Fiber provides,” Timmerman added.
UTOPIA Fiber is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah to force the city to pay the company damages sustained as a result of the alleged actions, to find the city violated the law with respect to its actions, and to force the city to cease the alleged “discriminatory and preferential actions” against the company.
UTOPIA Fiber, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, has designed, built, and operated more than $330 million worth of fiber projects in the state since 2009.
Comcast Business Says It’s Expanding Into Fiber Builds in Greater Washington Area
The company is putting millions more into fiber infrastructure in the Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia areas.
WASHINGTON, October 6, 2021 – Comcast’s business division announced a two-year, $28-million investment to expand fiber through the beltway region of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.
The company said in a press release Wednesday that $13 million of that was invested last year and $15 million have gone into projects that are underway or planned for this year. It is expected to connect nearly 7,000 additional businesses to speeds of up to 100 Gigabits per second for large businesses, it said, adding it’s all part of the $110 million Comcast Business has spent in the area since 2015.
The expansion is part of a larger effort by telecommunications companies in this country to drive fiber to the premises, and to get ahead of the next generation 5G networks. As this is happening, more federal and state dollars are being plowed into broadband infrastructure as President Joe Biden sets his sights on providing access to high-speed internet to 100 percent of the country by the end of the decade.
“The ability to offer both diversity of network and carrier is becoming increasingly important to help drive economic development and transformation,” Ed Rowan, senior director of Comcast Business sales operations in the region, said in the release.
“Connectivity is at the core of this and, more than ever, is an integral factor as businesses expand and prepare for what’s next. Our network expansions across Comcast’s Beltway Region are the latest example of the significant technology investments we’ve made to increase the availability of our multi-Gigabit Ethernet services,” he added. “These investments will help foster economic development, transform our local communities, and better meet next-generation capacity needs across the region.”
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