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Regional Broadband Conference in Connecticut on Thursday, November 8

NEW BRITAIN, Conn., November 2, 2018 – Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz is pleased to announce a broadband conference entitled, Connected New England: A Regional Broadband Convening at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut, (300 Capitol Ave.), Room 2C, on November 8, 2018, from 9:00 am – 4:30 p.m.

Registration is required, but the event is free for government, academic, and non-profit employees to attend, while the registration fee for others will be $150. Press are invited to attend. The event is being co-hosted by Next Century Cities, a non-profit coalition of innovative municipalities that recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit level internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, ensure civic participation, and connect residents to new opportunities.

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Regional Broadband Conference on November 8 to Feature Prominent Speakers Discussing the Status and Future of Broadband Access and Technology

NEW BRITAIN, Conn., November 2, 2018 – Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz is pleased to announce a broadband conference entitled, Connected New England: A Regional Broadband Convening at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut, (300 Capitol Ave.), Room 2C, on November 8, 2018, from 9:00 am – 4:30 p.m.

Registration is required, but the event is free for government, academic, and non-profit employees to attend, while the registration fee for others will be $150. Press are invited to attend. The event is being co-hosted by Next Century Cities, a non-profit coalition of innovative municipalities that recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit level internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, ensure civic participation, and connect residents to new opportunities, as well as the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), the State of Connecticut’s utility consumer advocate, and the Connecticut State Broadband Office within OCC, which works to facilitate the availability of broadband access to every state citizen, including by working with municipalities on community broadband efforts.

The conference keynote speaker Gigi Sohn is one of the nation’s leading public advocates for open, affordable and democratic communications networks. Sohn served as Counselor to the former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, from 2013 to 2016, and is credited as one of the prime architects of the Wheeler FCC’s net neutrality rules, which have since been repealed by the current FCC. Sohn is currently is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate.

The event will begin with a welcome address from State Representative Josh Elliott (D-Hamden), and then feature a panel including the Honorable Toni Harp, Mayor of New Haven, the Honorable David Martin, Mayor of Stamford, and the Honorable Marcia Leclerc, Mayor of East Hartford, moderated by Senator Beth Bye (D-5th District), discussing the current status in their respective cities and their goals and initiatives for additional broadband development.

Following that, prominent speakers from across industry, government, and broadband policy experts will discuss: successful models for community broadband development; the continuing problems with lack of internet access in parts of the region; the status and potential of the 5G wireless network and the implementation of small cells (wireless transmission systems) in communities throughout the region; financing for broadband development projects; and other topics.

Consumer Counsel Katz noted, “This conference, Connected New England: A Regional Broadband Convening, will provide excellent information for use by municipal governments, state and local elected officials, broadband industry representatives, those interested in broadband policy and technology, and others, as well as opportunities to hear from many who are working daily to bring high-speed internet access to citizens and businesses in Connecticut, the New England region, and the nation as a whole. This is an ever-changing field, and it is great for Connecticut to be hosting an event that will discuss the future of and recent developments in what has been called the essential ‘Utility of the 21st century,’ broadband internet access.”

The conference agenda and registration information can be found here or at https://nextcenturycities.org/event/new-england-connect/.

(Photo of Connecticut capitol by Dannel Maloy used with permission.)

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

FCC

FCC Announces New RDOF Accountability and Transparency Measures, Additional Funding

Results of verifications, audits and speed and latency testing for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will be made public.

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Photo of reels of cabling in Hinsdale, Mont., in August 2016 by Tony Webster used with permission

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Friday said that it will implement new accountability and transparency measures, and make public the results of verifications, audits and speed and latency testing for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

The measures are part of a new known as the Rural Broadband Accountability Fund that monitors several universal service high-cost programs.

Additionally announced in a press release, the Rural Broadband Accountability Fund will speed up the FCC’s audit and verification processes.

Audits and verifications are projected to double in 2022 as compared to 2021 and include on-site audits, and a particular focus will be placed on auditing and verifying the largest-dollar and highest-risk RDOF recipients.

The agency also announced that it would commit more than $1.2 billion more to RDOF, the largest funding round for the program to date.

The new funding will bring broadband service to more than 1 million locations through deployments in 32 states, with 23 broadband providers assisting the effort.

Going forward, the commission will deny waivers, it said, “for winning bidders that have not made appropriate efforts to secure state approvals or prosecute their applications.”

All winning bidders will undergo “an exhaustive technical, financial, and legal review.”

Finally, the commission says a list of areas will be published which details where providers have defaulted, “making those places available for other broadband funding opportunities.”

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Broadband Data

Federal Communications Commission Approves New Provider Transparency Requirements

Broadband providers must now create “broadband nutrition labels” which list pricing and speed information.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel from January 2015 by the Internet Education Foundation used with permission

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to require that broadband providers create “broadband nutrition labels” that list information on the pricing and speed of internet service they provide.

The labels mimic food nutrition labels in format and aim to increase transparency of providers in their marketing to consumers.

With their approval at the commission’s monthly open meeting Thursday, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said the new rules are crucial to consumers being able to find the best deals on broadband service for their personal needs.

Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel praised the label format, saying that it allows consumers to “easily compare” information and that it is “black and white, simple to read, and easy to understand.”

The long-simmering idea was enacted by Congress in the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by the president on November 15. It directed the FCC to revive the project by one year from the law’s passage.

On Thursday, Joshua Stager, New America’s deputy director for broadband and competition policy at its Open Technology Institute, called the vote “a welcome step forward and a win for consumers.” The think tank began promoting the idea last decade, and it had been endorsed by the Obama administration before being canned by the Trump administration.

Industry group Wireless Internet Service Providers Association said the transparency afforded by the new policy “provides consumers with important tools to make informed choices.”

Additionally in Thursday’s meeting, when the agency tentatively revoked telecom operator China Unicom Americas’ operating authority in the United States, the agency said they had reached out to the Department of Justice for assistance in responding to what they say are potential threats from the China-based company. This inter-agency review is routinely part of determinations involving foreign-owned telecommunications companies.

The agency also updated its definition of “library” to make clear that Tribal libraries are eligible to receive funds under the Universal Service Fund’s E-rate program.

Starks emphasized that the commission’s action represented progress on digital inclusion efforts, but that unfamiliarity of Tribal libraries with the E-rate program remains a problem.

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Fiber

Yellowstone Fiber Launches $65M Fiber Project with UTOPIA in Gallatin County, Montana

This will be the “first true gigabit city in the state of Montana,” said Bozeman’s director of economic development.

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Screenshot of Bozeman Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham in 2018

BOZEMAN, MONTANA, January 27, 2022 – Non-profit Yellowstone Fiber, in partnership with telecom Utopia Fiber, launched Thursday a $65-million high-speed fiber internet project in Gallatin County, Montana.

The open access model, which allows other telecoms to ride on the infrastructure to encourage competition, will mean “affordable access and service provider choice,” Brit Fontenot, Bozeman’s director of economic development and community relations, said during a Thursday press conference announcing the launch. Bozeman is a city in Gallatin County.

Yellowstone and Utopia, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, partnered back in September on the build, which is expected to bring speeds of 100 Gigabits per second download for businesses and 10 Gbps download for all 22,000 homes, businesses and government buildings in Bozeman, a Thursday press release said, adding the three-year construction project will begin this spring.

This will be the “first true gigabit city in the state of Montana,” said Fontenot.

The choice of Bozeman and Gallatin County was a deliberate one, said Bozeman Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham. Gallatin County has created “25 percent of all new jobs in Montana in the past decade,” in addition to being responsible for “30 percent of all population growth” of Montana, said Cunningham, adding there are “clean, data-driven companies…coming to Bozeman.”

The project is also expected to go beyond the initial $65 million. Utopia Fiber Executive Director Roger Timmerman said at the press conference that some phases can start sooner as additional grants and funds are made available. The project proponents noted that the funds will come from private, not taxpayer, sources.

The announcement comes just days after the state hired location analytics company Lightbox to build a statewide broadband map. The state is listed on data platform BroadbandNow as the worst state for broadband coverage and access, despite Federal Communications Commission mapping data that report 99 percent of Gallatin County having broadband access, the Thursday press release noted.

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