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Industry Groups and Non Profit Advocates Offer Encouraging Words about House Energy and Commerce Broadband Measure

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BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: Telecommunications industry and advocacy organizations on Wednesday and Thursday reacted to the introduction of the LIFT America Act, H.R. 2741, which stands for Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act, by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, R-N.J. The measure includes $40 billion, over five years, to deploy broadband. A hearing on the measure is scheduled for May 22.

Of the measure, US Telecom CEO Jonathan Spalter said, “we need a massive national commitment to improve American infrastructure right now. This includes smart and substantial direct funding mechanisms that allow for faster and more widespread broadband deployment everywhere.”

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, was more measured in its praise, saying that it “welcomed” the LIFT Act’s “goal of improving our national infrastructure through programs specifically targeted at extending high-speed broadband networks to those communities that are not yet connected. In particular, we appreciate the legislation’s reliance on reverse auctions as an efficient and technologically neutral means of distributing support and its attention to significant disparities in rates for pole attachments that thwart deployment and fair competition.”

Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition Executive Director John Windhausen said it was positive that the LIFT America Act “granted [anchor institutions’] eligibility for the Broadband Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program” because of their need for high-capacity bandwidth for education and telehealth services. He added, “The SHLB Coalition would like to work with Congress to give local communities a role in selecting the most appropriate broadband provider. We also hope to avoid using the flawed 477-based maps when identifying unserved and underserved areas, and suggest that the bill accommodate broadband availability information gathered from consumers.”

The Pallone press release follows:

ENERGY & COMMERCE DEMOCRATS INTRODUCE INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE AIMED AT COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE, EXPANDING BROADBAND ACCESS & PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT, from Rep. Frank Pallone:

All 31 Democratic members of the Energy and Commerce Committee today introduced a sweeping infrastructure package, the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT America Act, that will rebuild America through investments in combating climate change, expanding broadband access and protecting public health and the environment.

Full Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. also announced that the Full Committee will hold a hearing on the bill on Wednesday, May 22, at 10 am in the John D. Dingell Room, 2123 Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled, “LIFT America: Modernizing Our Infrastructure for the Future.”

“We cannot wait any longer to act on climate or to modernize our nation’s aging infrastructure. The LIFT America Act makes significant investments in rebuilding our country and takes an important step in combating the climate crisis by moving us towards a clean energy future and reducing our carbon emissions,” said Pallone. “This legislation will strengthen our economy for the future by creating good paying jobs, making critical investments in our nation’s broadband network, and bringing critical improvements to our drinking water and health care infrastructure.”

The LIFT America Act includes investments in several key areas, including:

Action to Combat the Climate Crisis and Protect Our Environment:

  • Over $33 billion for clean energy, including $4 billion to upgrade the U.S. electric grid to accommodate more renewable energy and make it more resilient. It also includes $4 billion for the expansion of renewable energy use, including $2.25 billion for the installation of solar panels in low-income and underserved communities. LIFT America also includes $23 billion for energy efficiency efforts – namely retrofitting and weatherizing buildings, including schools and homes, to ensure they produce fewer carbon emissions – and funding the nationwide deployment of more clean energy fuels.
  • $2.7 billion to spur the development of Smart Communities, including $850 million in technical assistance to help cities and counties integrate clean energy into their redevelopment efforts, and $1.4 billion to support the development of an electric vehicle (EV) charging network.
  • More than $21 billion to protect Americans’ drinking water, including $2.5 billion to establish a new grant program allowing PFAS-affected communities to filter the toxic chemicals out of their water supplies. LIFT America also expands upon the passage of the 2017 Safe Drinking Water Act by extending and increasing authorization for the State Revolving Loan Fund, and other safe water programs.
  • $2.7 billion for Brownfields redevelopment to revitalize communities and create jobs by returning valuable land to productive use.

Expanding Access to Broadband Internet:

  • $40 billion for the deployment of secure and resilient high-speed broadband internet service to expand access for communities nationwide and bring broadband to 98 percent of the country.
  • $12 billion in grants for the implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 services to make 9-1-1 service more accessible, effective, and resilient, and enable Americans to send text messages, images, or videos to 9-1-1 in times of emergency.
  • $5 billion in federal funding for low-interest financing of broadband infrastructure deployment through a new program that would allow eligible entities to apply for secured loans, lines of credit, or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure build out projects.

Investing in America’s Health Infrastructure:

  • $2 billion in funding to reauthorize the Hill-Burton hospital infrastructure program, including targeted assistance to support cybersecurity in the health system.
  • $1 billion for Indian Health Service infrastructure projects to reduce health disparities in Indian Country.
  • $100 million to support state labs on the frontlines of fighting infectious diseases.
  • $100 million to establish a community-based care infrastructure program and to develop teaching health centers and mental health care centers.
  • $3.5 billion to improve public health infrastructure at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and at state, local, tribal and territorial health departments.

The LIFT America Act is sponsored by Energy and Commerce Committee members Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Donald McEachin (D-VA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Darren Soto (D-FL) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ).

A section-by-section of the bill is available HERE, and the text of the bill is available HERE.

Source: E&C Democrats Introduce Infrastructure Package Aimed at Combating Climate Change, Expanding Broadband Access & Protecting Public Health and the Environment | Democrats, Energy and Commerce Committee

(Photo of Chairman Pallone from his web site.)

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. He brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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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Expert Opinion

Tony Thakur: Bandwidth Consumption, 5G and Rural Coverage Will Drive Fiber in 2022

In the coming year, fiber-optic infrastructure will needed to manage and offer increases in bandwidth capacity.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Tony Thakur, chief technology officer of Great Plains Communications

All indications show that we will continue to consume more and more bandwidth in support of our connected online lifestyles.

Without a doubt, the recent move to the hybrid work/learning model and the need to be constantly connected has increased internet usage. And, as video streaming, e-gaming and video conferencing grow in popularity, the drive for more bandwidth will rise.

To deliver much-needed high speed internet service to support these applications, more Fiber will be required to homes and businesses. Fiber infrastructure is capable of delivering huge bandwidth amounts at needed speeds and will be deployed throughout long haul, metro and last mile networks.

Here’s a look at what’s important to telecom networks, some of the drivers behind the rising trend to fiber, and why fiber is here to stay.

What is behind the rising trend to fiber?

There are several drivers, including:

Bandwidth-consuming applications. When multiple devices are running multiple applications simultaneously, bandwidth is quickly used up and buffering and lag can occur. Thus, networks will need to add more and more bandwidth. The FCC Household Broadband Guide cites rough guidelines for broadband speeds needed for various activities.  We can expect to see increases of speed from gigabit to terabit in the future.

5G deployments. This is another area where there is significant growth. Ultra-fast networks like 5G will require large bandwidth connectivity from the towers to the Switching Center. Fiber has become the standard for backhaul networks. We will continue to see more fiber deployed as 5G grows.

Rural coverage.  Fiber has been widely deployed in the metro areas and for long haul networks. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law November  15, 2021 includes $65 billion in funding for broadband deployment to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities. With more focus on providing high speed internet, there will be more and more fiber deployments in the access or last mile across the country. This trend is likely to continue over the next three to five years, especially in the rural areas where access to the internet is limited to dated technologies and delivery methods. We will see more and more fiber to the home deployments as well.

Fiber technologies to be aware of

Here are some fiber technologies that not only facilitate the additional bandwidth, they simplify processes, enable automation and provide new capabilities:

GPON or Gigabit Ethernet passive optical network uses a single fiber with a point-to-multipoint architecture for the last mile to deliver higher speeds to homes and businesses. GPON was introduced several years ago, with downstream capacity of 2.5 G and upstream of 1.2 G. The newer version, XGS PON, provides additional capability with 10 G symmetrical speeds. Most deployments going forward will employ XGS PON to enable higher bandwidth and speeds.

SD-WAN or software-defined wide-area network technology has been widely adopted in the telecom industry today. Customers can obtain the security, improved performance and diversity from their premise to the cloud and other locations, leveraging multiple circuits. That connectivity can be internet, Ethernet or wireless. The technology also includes orchestration capability that simplifies the operational process. This will continue to be adapted as the workforce shifts to Hybrid remote work environments with more apps and data in the cloud.

SDN or software-defined networking is another technology used for cloud connectivity and other Ethernet-based services.  The network is connected to data centers and cloud providers to enable “on-line” type services. For example, the SDN network allows for demand-type services. Bandwidth can increase or decrease in minutes via a portal and customers pay for what they use versus the traditional monthly recurring circuit cost model.

Growing cloud connectivity

More and more organizations continue moving to and using cloud connectivity to access their applications and data that reside in cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google, Oracle, IBM, SAP, Nutanix, Salesforce, Alibaba and others. Improved performance, faster access, and more flexibility to access tools and data are merely a few of the benefits.

While some rely on the internet to reach the cloud, there are drawbacks such as latency, limited bandwidth and less than top-level security. A direct connection to cloud platforms via fiber is more secure, faster and more reliable, thus improving performance for applications and workloads.

The private cloud or data center requires significant investment to build and operate. A cloud connect via fiber enables easy access to applications anywhere in the cloud, from any location. Data can be stored at multiple locations around the world, providing better flexibility.

Staying power

Technology trends come and go. Remember when people relied on dial-up internet access and carried flip phones, Blackberries or pagers? Yet we sometimes overlook the complexity that goes into deploying new technologies. It is not only about the cool technologies themselves, but so much more. Innovation depends upon talented people who can implement services such as cloud.  Truly, it is the people that make the difference in how we successfully adapt to new technologies.

Tony Thakur is the chief technology officer of Great Plains Communications where he guides the company’s technology vision and focuses on expanding and enhancing its robust fiber network. He has over two decades of experience in C-level and senior executive roles in the telecommunications industry. Tony graduated with a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas, Arlington, Texas. This Expert Opinion 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 reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Open Access

UTOPIA Fiber Pushes into Southern Utah

The expansion will bring fiber-to-the-home to residents of two additional Utahn cities.

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Roger Timmerman, executive director of UTOPIA Fiber

WASHINGTON, January 6, 2022 – Community-owned fiber optic network UTOPIA Fiber announced in a press release Wednesday that it will implement fiber-to-the-home service in the Utah cities of Cedar Hills and Santa Clara.

The expansion into Washington County’s Santa Clara marks UTOPIA Fiber’s first expansion into southern Utah.

“We’re really excited to continue our momentum in Utah County and to venture into southern Utah where Santa Clara will become the first all-fiber city in Washington County,” said Roger Timmerman, executive director of UTOPIA Fiber.

This move marks UTOPIA’s 18th and 19th city expansions and comes with a $12 million price tag. Just last month, UTOPIA completed its network in Payson City, Utah. The telecom provides business services in 50 cities.

In all its serviced cities, UTOPIA offers residential speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second and business speeds of up to 100 Gigabits per second – both the fastest respective speeds offered in the U.S. In total, the network provides fiber availability to more than 130,000 businesses and residences across its 50 serviced communities.

In its press release, UTOPIA promoted its expansion by citing research showing that residential and commercial property values increase when they are served by a fiber network. It added that its open access model, which allows infrastructure sharing with other providers, “protects a net-neutral internet without throttling, paid prioritization, or other provider interference.”

UTOPIA Fiber is a Broadband Breakfast Sponsor.

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