The Federal Communications Commission’s rural telehealth order of August 2019 was criticized by the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition in a Wednesday webinar.
The FCC’s rural health program has two arms: The healthcare connect fund and the telecommunications program.
Jeff Mitchell, attorney at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, laid out the healthcare connect fund side of things. Mitchel was concerned that a hospital must serve at least 51 percent of rural residents in order to be eligible for funding. Mitchel expressed shock that a consortia still servicing a substantial rural population might not meet the new threshold and hence lack vital funds.
Mitchell also worried that if the $571 million cap is met this year, which he predicts will happen, then non-rural consortia will bear 100 percent of the cuts. The SHLB coalition has petitioned the FCC to change this.
Other petitions on the FCC’s order include those contesting the definition of 20 people or less per square mile as “critically underserved,” as well as those by Ohio and North Carolina seeking to raise the funding cap.
At this time, the SHLB considers the likelihood of these petitions inspiring the FCC to action as either low or very low.
On the side of the telecommunications program, Gina Spade, attorney at Broadband Legal Strategies, LLC, focused on gifts and the “similar services clause” in the order.
Spade advised webinar participants to check with their employees to ensure that they do not offer sports tickets or loans to their healthcare provider clients. Under the new law, nothing exceeding the value of a cup of coffee and snacks can be offered to clients.
Spade also criticized the ambiguities of the FCC’s new definition of ‘similar services’ to determine fair rates for urban and rural clients, as there are many more factors at play than the FCC’s narrow fixation on broadband speed. She also took issue with the FCC for empowering the Universal Service Administrator Company to determine urban and rural rates.
Illustration from screenshot in SHLB webinar.
Experts Say Partnerships Key for Downtown City Connectivity
‘Simple and regular community engagement is needed.’
NASHVILLE, June 22, 2022 – While service providers plan on using fiber to revitalize downtown areas, experts say community engagement with local businesses is key to facilitate the construction process.
“Simple and regular community engagement is needed,” Nathan Hoople, senior project manager at engineering consulting firm Ditesco, said at the Fiber Connect conference on June 13.
Ryan Smith, engineering manager of the City of Loveland and Pulse Broadband, said there is a “cry for downtown city coverage.” Panelists agreed that regular community involvement in the broadband infrastructure process is key to getting more broadband access in downtown areas.
Hoople stated that because fiber infrastructure construction can be costly, partnerships are key to establish trust and having an efficient installation process for downtown project success. This can have a “tremendous impact on long term investment.”
Effective communication with local leaders and workers allows for a more efficient installation process, said Hoople. “Know exactly how you can serve every building on the block, so you don’t have to rip up the sidewalk in three months.”
Darren Archibald from software and cloud company Calix agreed with the service provider and community partner approach to better downtown access. He added that with this, this “build[s] brand credibility and reliability” making the community aware of the service and why it is beneficial.
Smith emphasized that a specific relationship with individuals in public works is critical for downtown construction. It “would help with permitting, inspections, final close outs and to coordinate with other street projects,” said Smith. “Those relationships go a long way.”
Samantha Schartman-Cycyk: Three Keys to Building Transformative Broadband Plans
‘While the federal government’s infrastructure funding creates unique opportunities, it also exposes challenges that states and tribes must get in front of to ensure that funding is sustainable and implementation is effective.’
This week, I am thrilled to join state, local and tribal leaders from across the U.S. as we convene in Cleveland, Ohio, for the Broadband Access Summit. As a local and long-time advocate for digital inclusion, I am proud that the Pew Charitable Trusts and Next Century Cities selected Cleveland, one of the least connected cities in the country, as the site for a timely conversation about how we can effectively spend the unprecedented levels of federal funding for broadband infrastructure.
While the federal government’s infrastructure funding creates unique opportunities, it also exposes challenges that states and tribes must get in front of to ensure that funding is sustainable and implementation is effective.
The good news is that digital equity is finally front and center—where it belongs—and it has taken nearly twenty years of advocacy and practice to get us to this point.
Following are three key lessons I have learned to ensure efforts to expand connectivity are community oriented and sustainable.
1. Bring in local leadership—now
Across the country, areas that have a dedicated local leadership responsible solely for digital equity and inclusion are outpacing their counterparts. Someone, or ideally a team, needs to wake up every day thinking about what digital equity means in their community, how to make a reality in a way that supports key priorities, and where the true needs are. We have seen benefits in cities such as Detroit and Seattle, who have taken this approach.
We must support these leaders with accurate data. At the Marconi Society, a nonprofit that champions digital equity, I helped launch the National Broadband Mapping Coalition to help leaders from rural communities and urban ‘digital deserts’ identify broadband gaps. The NBMC has developed a no-cost mapping toolkit to help educate and guide communities.
2. Plan for sustainability while you have strong funding
We need to anchor digital inclusion efforts to long-term state programs to solidify funding and reinforce the intersectional impact of digital inclusion. Typically, digital inclusion programs blossom within the period of investment but falter when funding runs out, only to peak again when new grants or federal money become available.
This process wastes resources, relationships, and time, resulting in stop-and-start programs that aren’t able to address residents’ needs nor build momentum.
For example, a state like Maine with an older rural population is likely to prioritize services that allow for aging in place and telemedicine care for seniors. States like Utah or Texas, with relatively young populations, might place a higher priority on education and K–12 STEM pipelines. This alignment will allow state leaders to prioritize and bake sustainability into their broadband plans, create digital equity programs that support their priorities, and incorporate data collection into their work.
3. Create the workforce your state will need
In order to implement strong broadband plans that create true digital equity, state and local governments need a pipeline of people who understand the unique intersection of technology, policy, and grassroots digital inclusion work needed to bridge the digital divide. As of last year, nearly 20 states did not even have a dedicated broadband office to begin this work. With funding already being dispersed to states, we are at a critical moment.
To help create this workforce, the Marconi Society conceptualized and is developing the first-ever “Digital Inclusion Leadership” professional certificate with Arizona State University. The program will launch in Fall 2022 and will include top-ranked professors and leading industry experts as teachers and advisors.
I believe that this interdisciplinary workforce will continue to be in high demand as states integrate digital equity into their long-term priorities.
After years of helping to lay the groundwork for the current burst of funding and activity around digital equity, I can say that our work has only just begun. We have the gift of beginning with knowledge and funding that can be truly transformative. The digitally equitable future we are fighting for is closer than it has ever been before—let’s make sure we get this right.
Samantha Schartman-Cycyk is President of the Marconi Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing digitally equitable communities by empowering change agents across sectors. Over her 20-year career, she has built forward-thinking programs and tools to drive impact on digital inclusion at the local and national levels, through projects with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), community training, and data collecting efforts. The Marconi Society celebrates and supports visionaries building tomorrow’s technologies upon the foundation of a connected world we helped create. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
Fiber Broadband Companies and Consultants Tout Their Work for Social Good
Fiber providers, equipment companies and consultants discussed their work in communities in a session at Fiber Connect
June 16, 2022 – Leading fiber broadband platforms are hoping to positively impact future generations beyond fiber deployment through education programs for youth, scholarship awards, and traditional community service events, said panelists at Fiber Connect event Tuesday.
The panel discussion, according to promotional material for the panel in advance of the session at the conference, “represented a new level of commitment based on the belief that operators have a responsibility to make the communities they serve even better.” The showcase panel was a way for the Fiber Broadband Association to highlight the work of providers, equipment vendors, consultants and government officials.
Companies are particularly focused on how to influence following generations for good. C-Spire is working with schools in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education, and it provides programs for youth to learn coding and participate in coding challenges hosted by C-Spire.
Working with the state of Mississippi, fiber provider C-Spire made computer science education available to all K-12 students in the state and donated $1 million for teacher training. C-Spire also provided more than $3 million in scholarships for higher education.
GVTC Communications, a consultant to the telecom industry, works with local nonprofits, churches, schools, and businesses to donate full thanksgiving meals to families in need every year since 2012.
Listening to the needs of the community is essential to make an impact, agreed the panel. “When you have listening as your core value, you find out things that you can really make a difference in,” said Kevin Morgan, chief marketing officer at Clearfield, a provider of equipment for fiber builds.
- Agency Leaders Urge Improvements to Spectrum Management
- Fixed-Wireless Behind Fiber, U.S. Broadband Competition, Oregon Broadband Map
- Researching the Impact of Digital Equity Funding Starts With Community Collaboration
- Experts Say Partnerships Key for Downtown City Connectivity
- FTC Commissioner Says Agency Report on AI for Online Harms Did Not Consult Outside Experts
- 5G Drone Test, Viaset Step Closer to Inmarsat Buy, Charter Awarded Nearly $50 Million in Kentucky
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