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Leaked Copy of Trump Administration’s Infrastructure Plan Shows Few Provisions for Broadband



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 “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.)

Andrew Feinberg was the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.


Next Generation PONs Important for Future Capacity Needs on Fiber Networks: Nokia Official

25G PONs are ideal to connect customers to 10G or higher speeds, a Nokia rep said.



Photo of David Eckard of Nokia

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2023 – Providers need to adopt next generation passive optical networks in fiber builds to make the most of federal investments, said David Eckard, vice president of the Broadband Partners at Nokia, at a Fiber Broadband Association event Wednesday. 

A PON service can support multiple clients from a single router by splitting a fiber-optic strand from an optical line terminal. It differs from an active optical network which dedicates each end user their own fiber optical line by an electrically-charged switcher that manages the signal distribution from the fiber line to service the end destinations. Both technologies are solutions for fiber-to-the-home network connections, but PONs are often preferred by providers because of the lower cost of deployment.

The 10-gigabit symmetrical PON, or XGS-PON, and the symmetrical 25G PON are evolutions of Gigabit PON, which only provides 2.5 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream.  

The industry is beginning to face capacity issues with GPONs which are still being widely deployed, said Eckard. He said that more and more services are requiring higher capacity and the demand will continue to increase as applications evolve to fill capacity capabilities. 

Providers need to ensure that they are building the right type of network to support these new applications, he said, pointing to the recently released Apple virtual reality headset set to be released early next year as an example of increasing capacity demands. 

Deploying 25G PONs is ideal for providers that want to provide customers with 10G or higher speeds and ensure future applications will be supported by their networks. He predicted that businesses will be the first adopters of 10G and higher speeds.  

Eckard also said adopting next generation PONs on fiber networks will also ensure that providers get the most from federally allocated programs like the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. That money is expected to be allocated to the states by June 30. 

According to network operators, XGS-PON is the preferred standards and networks are being upgraded to meet the standard. 

Nokia is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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FCC Commissioner Carr Criticizes BEAD Fiber Priority Ahead of Funding Allocation

The NTIA has acknowledged a clear preference for fiber in its bipartisan infrastructure deployment effort.



Photo of FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in Feb 2018 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2023 – Brendan Carr, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, voiced reservations last week about the fiber preference in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s flagship broadband funding program, citing potential time and financial constraints.

The NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, an offspring of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, is expected to deliver $42.5 billion to the states by June 30 for infrastructure that needs to be built within a handful of years. Funding priorities under BEAD will be given to “projects designed to provide fiber connectivity directly to the end user,” according to an NTIA document.

“I do think some of the BEAD policies put a bit too much of a thumb on the scale for fiber,” Carr said in an interview with John Foley, managing director of Safer Building Coalitions, at the Wireless Tech and Policy Summit in Washington.

“In the case of fiber, where it could take potentially years to get fiber built out, not to mention significant delta in funding,” said Carr. “It can take anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 to run a mile of fiber.”

He said fixed wireless access can sometimes provide “robust high-speed service” while still remaining within budget.

Despite the NTIA’s clear acknowledgement of a fiber preference in its infrastructure deployment effort, Carr has long advocated for the use of fiber alternatives in rural regions, where high-speed internet is still a luxury in some parts. In 2022, Carr criticized the FCC for rejecting full grants to satellite broadband service provider Starlink and fixed wireless service provider LTD Broadband from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

“We should be making it easier for unserved communities to get service, not rejecting a proven satellite technology that is delivering robust, high-speed service today,” read the statement. “To be clear, this is a decision that tells families in states across the country that they should just keep waiting on the wrong side of the digital divide even though we have the technology to improve their lives now.”

Among the summit’s panelists, former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein also raised skepticism that the program’s intended beneficiaries, those living in rural regions, would see any tangible benefits from a fiber priority strategy.

“Policy makers, I don’t think, are always thinking about how actually consumers are living on the ground,” he said. “The thing that isn’t so obvious sometimes is the affordability factor that not everybody can afford to have a fiber connection and a broadband connection over their handset.”

This isn’t the first time telecom experts raised concern about BEAD’s fiber-focused expansion. The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association released a report in February calling fiber-prioritized financing “a bad policy” due to its potential to raise implementation costs and slow down the rollout timeline.

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Utah City Approves UTOPIA Fiber Build

UTOPIA continues to expand open access model builds.



Photo of Bountiful City Hall

BOUNTIFUL, May 24, 2023 – The city council in Bountiful, Utah, voted unanimously to approve the building of a city-owned fiber network by Utah-based service provider UTOPIA Fiber Tuesday. 

The open access fiber infrastructure will be owned by the city but operated by UTOPIA Fiber, which will then lease the fiber to internet service providers. 

City council members expressed their resounding support for the program. We believe that the estimates of take rates are conservative and reasonable when compared to like communities, said City Manager Gary Hill, pointing to neighboring town Centerville that has 49 percent take rate on its city-owned network. 

Bountiful will issue $43 million in bonds to fund the program, announced the city. The debt service for the bond will be paid for using system revenues with any excess revenue invested into affordability assistance, city council members said.  

The initial contract term is 10 years with buildout expected to take 2-3 years. The city anticipates that it will make profit on the investment within four to five years of operation. 

In 2022, at the request of residents, the city issued a request for proposals that were released to potential fiber providers to build and operate a city-owned network. In January, Bountiful officials began contract negotiations with UTOPIA. 

“The purpose of the City’s involvement with fiber is to provide a competitive marketplace for internet service providers through an open access network,” read the city’s statement.  

The announcement comes months after West Haven, Utah announced its contract with UTOPIA Fiber for a city-wide network. 

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