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Trump Administration Plans to Unveil Infrastructure Principles, Including for Broadband, on February 12

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WASHINGTON, February 6, 2018 – The Trump administration will unveil principles for its long-awaited plan to spend $1.5 trillion on revamping the nation’s infrastructure this coming Monday, a White House official confirmed to BroadbandBreakfast.com.

Trump alluded to the forthcoming plan during his first State of the Union address last week, when he called on Congress to craft an infrastructure plan that would encourage collaboration among state and local governments, as well as the use of public-private partnerships “where appropriate.”

The president, however, did not go into detail as to any specific proposals or priorities. Nor did he specifically discuss broadband internet as part of his broader infrastructure plan

Trump fact sheet matches up with a leaked document on the forthcoming plan

But a fact sheet distributed to reporters during Trump’s speech provided additional details that matched up with a leaked document purporting to be a list of principles for the forthcoming plan. The leaked document also revealed that unlike the Obama administration, which distributed a combined $7.2 billion in loans and grants for broadband programs under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the Trump administration is making few provisions for building out broadband through fiber, wireless, or any other manner of 21st century infrastructure.

The only aspect of the forthcoming plan that specifically includes broadband or telecommunications projects is a “Rural Infrastructure Program,” which would set aside one quarter of any funds appropriated under the plan 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.

‘Infrastructure Incentives Initiatives’ bring state and local governments into the space

Fifty percent of appropriated funds – approximately $750 billion, if the plan is fully funded – would be directed toward an “Infrastructure Incentives Initiative.” That program would “[encourage] state, local and private investment in core infrastructure by providing incentives in the form of grants,” which would be conditioned on achieving milestones set out in grant proposals within an identified time frame.

The draft principles do not specifically disallow eligible entities – states, groups of states, U.S. territories, local governments, groups of local governments, and metropolitan planning organizations – from applying to use grants for broadband projects.

But many jurisdictions would not be permitted to even consider using III grants for such projects because many states have passed laws to prohibit the construction of municipal broadband networks, since such networks would compete with commercial telecommunications providers such as Verizon and Comcast.

February 12 is the date for the public unveiling of the Trump principles

The Trump infrastructure “principles” will be made public Feb. 12, the same day on which the administration will release its budget blueprint for the fiscal year 2019, which begins Oct. 1.

While the White House also put forth a proposed budget for the current fiscal year 2018, the government is currently operating on a continuing resolution which maintains funding levels based on last year’s budget, as Congress has not yet passed any appropriations bills for FY2018.

Although funding based on the most recent continuing resolution run out after Feb. 8, Congress has not yet passed another funding bill due to disagreements in the areas of military spending and immigration policy, as some Democrats want to use a must-pass bill to keep the government open as a vehicle for legislation to grant legal status to children brought to the U.S. illegally.

(Photo of Donald Trump at the State of the Union address on January 30, 2018, by the White House.)

Education

Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.

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Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.

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Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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Broadband's Impact

Broadband Speeds Have Significant Impact on Economy, Research Director Says

From 2010 to 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove .04 percent increase in GDP, the study found.

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Photo of Alan Davidson of the NTIA, Caroline Kitchens of Shopify, Raul Katz of Columbia University (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Broadband and higher speeds have made significant contributions to economic growth over the last decade, according to a study discussed at a Network On conference Tuesday.

Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at Columbia University, conducted his research to determine where the United States economy would be if broadband had not evolved since 2010. He developed four models to explain the economic contribution of broadband, and all found support to suggest that broadband development has contributed to substantial economic growth.

The long-run economic growth model showed that between 2010 and 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove a .04 percent increase in gross domestic product – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in the nation. States with higher speed broadband had an economic impact of an additional 11.5 percent.

“States with higher speeds of broadband have a higher economic effect,” said Katz. “Not only is there penetration as a driver, but there’s also… return to speed. At faster speeds, the economy tends to be more efficient.”

The study found that if broadband adoption and speed had remained unchanged since 2010, the 2020 GDP would have been 6.27 percent lower, said Katz.

Caroline Kitchens, a representative for ecommerce platform Shopify, said Tuesday that there’s been great growth in the ecommerce business, which relies entirely on a broadband connection. “Worldwide, Shopify merchants create 3.5 million jobs and have an economic impact of more than $307 billion. It goes without saying that none of this is possible without broadband access.”

“We have really seen firsthand how broadband access promotes entrepreneurship,” said Kitchens, indicating that this has promoted a growing economy in over 100 countries.

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