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Broadband's Impact

Applications for Municipalities and States to Join Key FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee Due Monday

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WASHINGTON, March 7, 2018 – Local government officials seeking to offer a corrective tonic on broadband deployment to the Federal Communications Commission may consider applying for the expanded Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.

Nominations for the more-than-10-year-old group are due on Monday, March 12, at 6 p.m. ET, according to a public notice published by the FCC on January 11.

The group’s mission is to provide elected municipal officers, county officers, a governor, state legislators, and other local officials with the opportunity to influence communications policy.

The group has historically been composed of 15 members, and recently suffered the additional loss when member Ed Lee, the Mayor San Francisco, passed away in December 2017.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has pushed to expand the group from its prior composition of 15 member to 30 members. Of those 30, a minimum of 4 shall be city mayors or city council members, 3 shall be state legislators, 3 shall be Native American Tribal representatives, 2 shall be county officials, with at least one governor, public utility commissioner, and local government attorney, respectively.

The remaining 15 slots are to be composed of similar elected or appointed local government officials.

Criticisms of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee

Some on the long-standing Intergovernmental Advisory Committee have been critical of last year’s active push through a rival advisory body, the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.

The BDAC was announced on January 31, 2017, and has assembled an array of telecommunications industry observers centered around streamlining siting communications facilities on federal lands, competitive access to broadband infrastructure, and proposed model  codes for states and cities.

However, only one local government representative, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, was included on the initial BDAC, although two other local officials — Lenexa, Kansas, Mayor Andy Huckaba and Georgia Municipal Association Executive Director Larry Hanson — were subsequently added.

In January 2018, Liccardo resigned from the BDAC in protest after their January 23-24 meting.

Liccardo said BDAC will ‘further the interests of the telecommunications industry over the public’

“When I joined this committee, I hoped that I could contribute to developing balanced, common-sense recommendations that will advance our goal of expanding broadband access for all Americans, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai identified as his ‘top priority’ at yesterday’s meeting,” Liccardo said in a statement.

“It has become abundantly clear, however, that Chairman Pai and the FCC merely pay lip service to the goal of digital equity, and this body will simply serve to further the interests of the telecommunications industry over the public interest,” said the first-term Democratic mayor, who is up for reelection this November.

At its January meeting, the group received reports from each of the major working groups, and also considered progress on the proposed model codes for states and municipalities.

The next BDAC meeting will be held on April 25, 2018, and is scheduled to receive reports from working groups, including the proposed model codes.

A corrective to BDAC from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee?

Local government critics of the BDAC — including several members of the IAC– say that they have diminishing hopes that local government opinions will be reflected in the final BDAC product.

IAC is a standing advisory committee, and its members serve for a two-year term that begins with its first meeting. Members need to re-apply after two years, and the IAC does change frequently.

Additionally, IGA has a more comprehensive history and legacy than the one-year-old BDAC. Prior members of the group include New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Lenexa Mayor Huckaba (now on the BDAC), Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Virginia Gov. Terence McAuliffe, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and others.

Pai had pressed the FCC to expand the IGA size over the objection of others at the agency, including Mignon Clyburn. The FCC voted to expand the body in December, and the public notice was published on January 11 of this year.

Application process for the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

Although the deadline is on Monday, agency official Carmen Scanlon said the elements that must be received by that date include a letter of interest, a resume showcasing the public official’s expertise and activities in the field of communication, and contact information.

Also unlike the BDAC, the IAC is exempt from the Federal Advisory Committee Act. That is so because IAC officials are all “elected or appointed local government” officials, and must be on the staff of the municipal or county government represented and be part of the governmental process.

This is done, Scanlon said, “to ensure that the Committee can continue to operate with the informality and flexibility that have proven so effective in the past and that inhere in its FACA-exempt status.”

From the FCC’s Public Notice on the IAC:

CANDIDATE EXPERTISE

The Commission is especially interested in candidates with expertise in communications and information technology, and candidates representing rural and Tribal areas, especially candidates with expertise in the challenges of rural broadband adoption.

APPLICATIONS AND SELECTION

Interested candidates should submit their applications to the Commission.  Please note that applicants will be serving on the IAC as representatives of their jurisdictions and not as representatives of any organizations that may recommend them.  Applications may be submitted as follows: (1) online via email; and/or (2) hardcopy via mail.  Applications must be received by no later than 6 pm 60 days from the release of this PN.

Applications submitted via email must be sent to IGA@fcc.gov.  Hard copy applications submitted via mail must be addressed to:

Attn:  Carmen Scanlon, Attorney Advisor
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

The application does not require a particular format but must include the following information:

  • Resume (including applicant’s current position);
  • Contact information (both email and mailing addresses, as well as telephone numbers);
  • A brief description of the applicant’s area of expertise and qualifications to serve on the IAC, including the applicant’s experience with telecommunications issues affecting local, state, or Tribal governments. Candidates are encouraged to provide links to any articles they have authored on relevant topics and/or public appearances available on the web for viewing; and,
  • The position(s) that the applicant is applying for, i.e., elected municipal officials (city mayors and city council members); county officials (county commissioners or council members); elected or appointed local government attorney; elected state executive (Governor or Lieutenant Governor); elected state legislators; elected or appointed public utilities or public service commissioner; or elected or appointed Native American Tribal representatives. If an applicant potentially qualifies for more than one position on the IAC, he or she should specify which position(s) they seek.

Once the Chairman of the Commission selects the new IAC members, the Commission will release a Public Notice announcing the appointments.

(Photo of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee at their last meeting in October 2017 from the FCC.)

Digital Inclusion

Doug Lodder: How to Prevent the Economic Climate from Worsening the Digital Divide

There are government programs created to shrink the digital divide, but not many Americans know what’s out there.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Doug Lodder, president of TruConnect

From gas to groceries to rent, prices are rocketing faster than they have in decades. This leaves many American families without the means to pay for essentials, including cellphone and internet services. In fact, the Center on Poverty and Social Policy reports that poverty rates have been steadily climbing since March. We’re talking about millions of people at risk of being left behind in the gulf between those who have access to connectivity and those who don’t.

We must not allow this digital divide to grow in the wake of the current economic climate. There is so much more at stake here than simply access to the internet or owning a smartphone.

What’s at stake if the digital divide worsens

Our reliance on connectivity has been growing steadily for years, and the pandemic only accelerated our dependence. Having a cell phone or internet access are no longer luxuries, they are vital necessities.

When a low-income American doesn’t have access to connectivity, they are put at an even greater disadvantage. They are limited in their ability to seek and apply for a job, they don’t have the option of convenient and cost-effective telehealth, opportunities for education shrink, and accessing social programs becomes more difficult. I haven’t even mentioned the social benefits that connectivity gives us humans—it’s natural to want to call our friends and families, and for many, necessary to share news or updates. The loss or absence of connectivity can easily create a snowball effect, compounding challenges for low-income Americans.

The stakes are certainly high. Thankfully, there are government programs created to shrink the digital divide. The challenge is that not many Americans know what’s out there.

What can be done to improve it

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration created the federal Lifeline program to subsidize phones and bring them into every household. The program has since evolved to include mobile and broadband services.

More than 34 million low-income Americans are eligible for subsidized cell phones and internet access through the Lifeline program. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 eligible people are taking advantage of the program because most qualified Americans don’t even know the program exists.

The situation is similar with the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, another federal government program aimed at bringing connectivity to low-income Americans. Through ACP, qualifying households can get connected by answering a few simple questions and submitting eligibility documents.

Experts estimate that 48 million households—or nearly 40% of households in the country—qualify for the ACP. But, just like Lifeline, too few Americans are taking advantage of the program.

So, what can be done to increase the use of these programs and close the digital divide?

Our vision of true digital equity is where every American is connected through a diverse network of solutions. This means we can’t rely solely on fixed terrestrial. According to research from Pew, 27% of people earning less than $30,000 a year did not have home broadband and relied on smartphones for connectivity. Another benefit of mobile connectivity—more Americans have access to it. FCC data shows that 99.9% of Americans live in an LTE coverage area, whereas only 94% of the country has access to fixed terrestrial broadband where they live.

Additionally, we need more local communities to get behind these programs and proactively market them. We should see ads plastered across billboards and buses in the most impacted areas. Companies like ours, which provide services subsidized through Lifeline and ACP, market and promote the programs, but we’re limited in our reach. It’s imperative that local communities and their governments invest more resources to promote Lifeline, ACP and other connectivity programs.

While there’s no panacea for the problem at hand, it is imperative that we all do our part, especially as the economic climate threatens to grow the digital divide. The fate of millions of Americans is at stake.

Doug Lodder in President of TruConnect, a mobile provider that offers eligible consumers unlimited talk, text, and data, a free Android smartphone, free shipping, and access to over 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots; free international calling to Mexico, Canada, South Korea, China and Vietnam; plus an option to purchase tablets at $10.01. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Senate Bill Subsidizing U.S. Semiconductor Production Clears House, Going to White House

Bill aims to strengthen American self-reliance in semiconductor chip production and international competition.

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Photo of Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, during Tuesday's press conference

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2022 – A $54 billion bill to subsidize U.S-made semiconductor chips passed the House Thursday on a 243-187, and moves to President Biden for his expected signature.

Dubbed the CHIPS Act for Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors Act for America Fund, the measure is expected to incentivize domestic semiconductor manufacturing and also provide grants for the design and deploying of wireless 5G networks. It also includes a $24 billion fund to create a 25 percent tax credit for new semiconductor manufacturing facilities.

Advocates of the measure say that it will also improve U.S. supply chain, grow U.S. domestic workforce, and enable the U.S. to compete internationally to combat national security emergencies.

The measure passed the Senate Wednesday on a 64-33 vote.

Congressional supporters tout benefits

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., voiced his support on the House floor, calling it “a win for our global competitiveness.”

The CHIPS Act of 2022 provides a five-year investment in public research and development, and establishes new technology hubs across the country.

Of the funds, $14 billion goes to upgrade national labs, and $9 billion goes to the National Institute of Standards and Technology research, of which $2 billion goes to support manufacturing partnerships, and with $200 million going to train the domestic workforce.

In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett said that America’s semiconductor industry has lost ground to foreign competitors. “Today, only 12% of chips are manufactured in the United States, down from 37% in the 1990s.”

He said relying on cheaper products produced in China and overseas for so long, it has caught up with the United States.

Bennet suggested to move manufacturing labs to Colorado, where it can support it due to the plenty of jobs in aerospace and facility and infrastructure space.

“We don’t want the Chinese setting the standard for telecommunications. America needs to lead that. This bill puts us in the position to be a world leader,” said Bennet. “We are at a huge national security disadvantage if we don’t do this.”

Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, joined his Rocky Mountain state colleague in support: “There is a real sense of urgency here to compete not only to re-establish the U.S. to make their own chips, but to compete internationally.”

He said that semiconductor chips are vital to almost every business and product, including phones, watches, refrigerators, cars, and laptops. “I’m not sure if I can think of a business that isn’t dependent on chips at this point.”\

“This is a space race,” he said. “We cannot afford to fall behind.”

Industry supporters say measure is necessary

The U.S. has lost ground to foreign competitors in scientific R&D and in supply chain industry during a recent semiconductor crisis, said France Córdova, president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event on July 19. The U.S. only ranks sixth best among other prominent countries in the world for research and development, she said.

“The CHIPS Act of 2022 and FABS Act are critical investments to even the global playing field for U.S. companies, and strategically important for our economic and national national security,” said Ganesh Moorthy, president and CEO of Microchip Technology Inc.

Bide expected to sign measure

With the Biden’s Administration’s focus to tackle the semiconductor shortage and supply chain crisis through the Executive Order made in February, the Biden administration has been bullish on the passage of the CHIPS Act, in a Wednesday statement:

“It will accelerate the manufacturing of semiconductors in America, lowering prices on everything from cars to dishwashers.  It also will create jobs – good-paying jobs right here in the United States.  It will mean more resilient American supply chains, so we are never so reliant on foreign countries for the critical technologies that we need for American consumers and national security,” said Biden.

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Health

Providers Call for More FCC Telehealth Funding as Demand Grows

‘I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.’

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2022 – Health care providers in parts of America say they are struggling to deliver telehealth due to a lack of broadband connectivity in underserved communities, and recommended there be more funding from the Federal Communications Commission.

While the FCC has a $200-million COVID-19 Telehealth program, which emerged from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, some providers say more money is needed as demand for telehealth services increases.

“The need for broadband connectivity in underserved communities exceeds current availability,” said Jennifer Stoll from the Oregon Community Health Information Network.

The OCHIN was one of the largest recipients of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot program in 2009. Stoll advocated for the need for more funding with the non-profit SHLB Coalition during the event last week. Panelists didn’t specify how much more funding is needed.

Stoll noted that moving forward, states need sustainable funding in this sector. “I am hoping Congress will be mindful of telehealth,” said Stoll.

“The need for telehealth and other virtual modalities will continue to grow in rural and underserved communities,” she added.

Brian Scarpelli, senior global policy counsel at ACT, the App Association, echoed the call for FCC funding from the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes basic telecommunications services to rural areas and low-income Americans. “I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.”

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