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NTIA Database on Federal Projects Released, FCC’s Carr Visits Montana and Wyoming, and New Broadband Study

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The National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a comprehensive database of federal broadband programs on Monday. (See also this PDF for the 109-page guide of programs.) The database was created under the American Broadband Initiative’s mandate to expand connectivity for all Americans.

The database includes information about billions of dollars in potential grants and loans from several federal agencies, making funding more accessible. Users looking for broadband funding can search the database by agency, program purpose, and eligibility.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Diane Rinaldo said that “Consolidating these critical resources into a one-stop, easy-to-use resource provides an important tool in spurring efforts to expand our nation’s broadband infrastructure projects.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr to Montana and Wyoming

Last week, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr visited Montana and Wyoming to discuss rural broadband issues including smart agriculture and telehealth, reported the Powell Tribune. According to Carr, 5G infrastructure could bring more broadband to rural homes and businesses.

Although 5G has been widely-discussed as a solution for rural broadband, skeptical voices are beginning to speak more loudly. At a New America Foundation panel on Monday, experts projected that carriers would ultimately be unwilling to penetrate rural areas because of the low return on investment.

Carr highlighted the importance of broadband for individuals with health problems living in isolated rural areas, such as a woman who uses an iPad app to upload her blood sugar and other information to be remotely reviewed by her doctors.

Broadband study from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Oklahoma State

A study released this month by researchers at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Oklahoma State University emphasized the connection between broadband access and lower unemployment rates.

“Having access to high speed broadband, which is propelled by fiber deployment, is the great equalizer for many communities throughout America, especially those in rural areas,” Fiber Broadband Association CEO Lisa Youngers said according to Telecompetitor. “This study shows that high speed broadband can jumpstart local economies by lowering unemployment rates and creating new opportunities.”

According to the study’s abstract, unemployment rates in counties with high speed connections are about 0.26 percentage points lower than those in counties with low speeds. Additionally, the quality of broadband “appears to have a disproportionately greater effect in rural areas.”

(Photo of Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr from his Twitter feed.)

Reporter Em McPhie studied communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a managing editor for the student newspaper. In addition to agency and freelance marketing experience, she has reported extensively on Section 230, big tech, and rural broadband access. She is a founding board member of Code Open Sesame, an organization that teaches computer programming skills to underprivileged children.

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FCC Permit ‘Shot Clocks’ Provides ‘Predictability’ to Wireless Infrastructure Builds: T-Mobile

Shot clocks are important to industry players, argued T-Mobile’s Tim Halinski.

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Photo of Nancy Werner, partner at Bradley Werner, LLC.

WASHINGTON, November 8, 2022 – Panelists on a Federal Communications Bar Association web panel discussed Monday whether benefits of the Federal Communications Commission’s “shot clocks,” which limit how long states and local governments can review wireless infrastructure applications, outweigh the increased pressures they place on state and local governments.

A shot clock’s deadline puts pressure on city officials’ negotiations with providers over the terms of infrastructure projects, said Nancy Werner, partner at Bradley Werner, LLC, a telecommunications legal and consulting firm. They also “put a lot of pressure on local governments…to make sure (they) have a reason to deny” a provider’s application if an agreement cannot be readily reached, Werner added.

Tim Halinski, corporate counsel for T-Mobile, argued Monday that shot clocks are important to industry players, although he acknowledged the validity of Werner’s concerns. T-Mobile and other providers benefit from expeditious permitting processes, as they look to accelerate the build out of 5G wireless technology.

“There’s no one size fits all,” Halinski said, “But it’s at least the starting point and provides that predictability in deployment that we need.”

The comments come as the FCC fields comments on new standards that would streamline the division of costs between third party attachers and pole owners. Critics say the financial and time delay burden in getting access to these poles have slowed and will slow the expansion of broadband in the country.

In 2018, the FCC instituted shortened shot clocks for small wireless infrastructure projects: “60 days for review of an application for collocation…using a preexisting structure and 90 days for review of an application for attachment…using a new structure.” The commission said the new, limited timeframes would facilitate the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

The FCC’s revised shot clocks for small wireless deployments was but one portion of the agency’s so-called “Small Cell Order” of 2018, which aimed to promote the expansion of 5G. To accomplish this goal, however, the order sought to eliminate regulatory roadblocks by limiting state and local governments’ authorities over wireless infrastructure permitting and their own rights of way. This tactic drew criticisms from many experts and local officials.

Nonetheless, in August 2020, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the order in City of Portland v. United States.

“(The Ninth Circuit’s) decision is a massive victory for U.S. leadership in 5G, our nation’s economy and American consumers,” said then–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shortly after the ruling. “The court rightly affirmed the FCC’s efforts to ensure that infrastructure deployment critical to 5G…is not impeded by exorbitant fees imposed by state and local governments.”

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5G Demand Needs More Fiber Infrastructure, Conference Hears

‘We’re in the early innings now of this 5G evolution and really the fourth industrial revolution,’ said a Verizon partner.

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Screenshot of Jeff Hulse, vice president of Verizon Partner Solutions, (left) and Curtis Heffelfinger, vice president of wholesale sales at Brightspeed.

DENVER, October 26, 2022 – More fiber deployment is “critical” to meet increasing demands for 5G, said a telecom executive at the 2022 INCOMPAS Show.

“[Fiber]’s where the industry is shifting and you’re going to have to shift with the industry,” Curtis Heffelfinger, vice president of wholesale sales at telecom Brightspeed, said on a Monday panel.

5G wireless builds will use fiber to many cell sites to deliver on the promise of ubiquitous connectivity in many areas. 5G technology promises faster cell speeds and lower latency – the time it takes for a communication to be sent from a device to a network and back.

“Today we’re in the early innings now of this 5G evolution and really the fourth industrial revolution,” said Jeff Hulse, vice president of Verizon Partner Solutions.

Industry incumbents are moving toward rapid expansion of fiber builds. Just last week, Bloomberg reported AT&T is in talks to initiate an eight-figure fiber-deployment project.

Hulse said his company is “thinking big about big bandwidth,” and although Verizon has “a ton of legacy products out there on copper wires,” the telecom giant is working to transition networks towards the future.  Heffelfinger said Brightspeed is modernizing as well, although it also still owns many “aged assets.”

The INCOMPAS Show is a communications industry event that facilitates networking and business deals. The 2020 show, held in Denver, featured executives from Verizon, DISH, FiberLight, and other industry players, as well as officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and state broadband offices.

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Johnny Kampis: Wireless Survey Shows 5G’s Role in Closing Digital Divide

5G has experienced a quantum leap in growth since it first began rolling out in 2018.

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The author of this Expert Opinion in Johnny Kampis of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance

There was universal consensus that 5G wireless technology would be a game changer for closing the digital divide. The question was whether or not private investment would be enough to deploy the needed infrastructure. A new report shows that capital expenditures from wireless providers reached a record high in 2021, as 5G saw tremendous growth and will continue to help connect households now unserved by broadband.

CTIA’s 2022 Annual Wireless Industry Survey shows that wireless providers invested $35 billion into growing and improving their networks, the fourth consecutive year of industry growth.

CTIA said this is “a powerful trend that emphasizes the societal importance of wireless connectivity and underlines the industry’s commitment to building a robust platform for innovation that connects all communities.”

5G has experienced a quantum leap in growth since it first began rolling out in 2018, as infrastructure reforms that eased deployment barriers have resulted in 5G growing twice as fast as 4G. Since the Federal Communications Commission and state legislatures worked to modernize key siting regulations that could have stymied the technology’s growth, wireless providers have added 70,000 active cell sites. There are now nearly 420,000 operational cell sites across the U.S.

As CTIA notes, “More cell sites enhance coverage, encouraging adoptions and helping to close the digital divide.”

Clearly consumers want faster mobile internet speeds as the number of connective 5G devices grew more than a whopping 500 percent this past year from 14 million to Accenture 85 million. About one-third of American now possess an active 5G device.

CTIA points out that the number of connections that require wireless technology is helping fuel the growth – everything from smart watches to medical sensors. Such data-only devices represent about 42 percent of all wireless connections.

Wireless providers have invested nearly $121 billion into their networks since the launch of 5G.

CTIA notes that in an age of incredible inflation, the wireless industry’s investment, combined with increased market competition, has led to lower prices, “providing a welcome contrast to an economy where consumers have faced priced increases for 94 percent of tracked goods and services nationwide.”

Since 2010, the cost of unlimited data plans has declined 43 percent while wireless speeds have increased 85-fold over the same period.

Investment and competition have also led to new innovations such as 5G for home broadband and 5G fixed wireless. The latter is particularly useful in connecting rural areas where it’s hard to make a business case for fiber due to the cost of the last-mile connections. CTIA notes that 5G home broadband is available in more than 40 million households, providing home connections via spectrum with high capacity and low latency rather than a wired connection.

The report also points out that 5G is helping mitigate the impacts of climate change by creating green jobs in key industries. Accenture has found that 5G-enabled use cases should delivers 20 percent of the U.S.’s emission reduction targets by 2025.

5G is clearly helping usher in a new age of connectivity in this country. CTIA’s statistics are encouraging signs that the latest wireless technology is helping make broadband access available to more Americans than ever before. The best part of this growth is that taxpayer dollars are not being spent.

Johnny Kampis is director of telecom policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. 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 reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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