May 14, 2020 — The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, also called the HEROES Act, contains $5 billion for discounted broadband service designed to increase broadband connectivity.
The HEROES Act, which was introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., is the next stimulus measure being considered by Congress in response to the coronavirus. It extends upon the CARES Act, passed in March, and provides various benefits such as tax breaks for first responders.
The bill’s so-called Emergency Connectivity Fund works in conjunction with the Federal Communication Commission’s existing LIFELINE program and allocates $5 billion for discounted broadband service.
Rural and low-income connectivity problems have been in the spotlight recently, with some unable to make a proper transition to working from home. A variety of smaller grants have been handed out by agencies like the USDA and the FCC, mostly for broadening existing infrastructure and preparing new networks in underserved areas.
However, the proposed legislation would subsidize broadband companies to allow the unconnected to connect to the $50-or-less broadband option of their choice.
The bill would expedite the approval process for household subsidized broadband, granting discounts to requestees within two days of the applicant’s initial request.
Broadband providers that supply an affected household with a connected device will receive up to $100 if it meets specific guidelines.
In addition to subsidized broadband, the bill specifies that affected persons will receive unlimited calling minutes and unlimited data per month, as well as 4G speeds where available.
The bill also stipulates several restrictions on the broadband providers to safeguard against abuse and corruption of the funds.
For example, if passed, it would be unlawful for broadband providers to terminate or change consumers’ broadband access if they cannot pay. This prohibition would also apply to the imposition of late fees, data limits, or data overage fees on individual persons and small businesses.
The bill allocates $200 million to facilitate the rollout of application methods for the service, such as online portals for municipalities across the country.
Huizenga introduced the bill in the house on April 3rd, and it was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means the same day. Although it has been highly publicized, representatives have not yet voted on the bill, and may not for some time.
This lack of movement is not unusual, as such legislation rarely moves faster than a snail’s pace on the Hill. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., introduced the CARES Act in January, and it went through several evolutions before Congress and the adopted it into law in late March.
Several organizations are already applauding the HEROES Act. Matt Wood, Vice President of Policy and General Counsel for media and internet watchdog Free Press Action, said the bill is necessary.
“Millions of people across the country couldn’t afford to get online before the pandemic hit. Over the last two months, millions have lost their jobs in record numbers and may now be unable to pay for essential services like internet access,” he said.
Wood also said that to preserve the livelihoods of millions, Congress needs to act quickly.
“The need to get and keep everyone connected to the internet isn’t up for debate, but we must act quickly … The HEROES Act is an important step in that direction,” he said.
Sunne McPeak: Achieving True Digital Equity Requires Strong Leadership and Sincere Collaboration
Collaboration between community leaders will be essential in ensuring success of the Biden infrastructure bill in California.
This week, President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure bill, which includes $65 billion for expanding broadband deployment and access for all Americans.
The national plan is described as the most significant infrastructure upgrade in the three decades since the Cold War. “This is an opportunity to create an Eisenhower national highway system for the information age,” says a former White House National Security Council senior director.
For California – the nation’s largest state – it means a minimum $100 million for broadband infrastructure that is designed to expand high-speed internet access for at least 545,000 residents, particularly in unserved and underserved communities, according to the White House. The federal funding will support California’s $6 billion broadband infrastructure plan.
Closing the digital divide and achieving true digital equity requires strong leadership and sincere collaboration among public agencies, internet service providers and civic leaders to seize this unique opportunity to achieve strategic priorities in education, telehealth, transportation and economic development. The 2021 USC-CETF Statewide Survey on Broadband Adoption highlighted that a significant number of Californians will be left behind because they are unable to access the internet and other digital functionality needed for vital activities.
Now, the question is how to ensure the public’s funds will be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. California must implement a thoughtful, aggressive strategy that will maximize immediate impact and optimize return on investment. Separately, for several years, CETF has been calling for broadband deployment as a green strategy for sustainability; that urgency only grows in the wake of the COP26 climate meetings. As leaders begin to make historic investments, they should embrace these key principles for action:
- Prioritize and drive infrastructure construction to the hardest-to-reach residents — rural unserved areas, tribal lands, and poor urban neighborhoods — and then connect all locations, especially anchor institutions (schools, libraries and health care facilities), along the path of deployment.
- Require open-access fiber middle-mile infrastructure with end-user internet speeds sufficient to support distance learning and telehealth.
- Strive to achieve ubiquitous deployment in each region to avoid cherry picking for more lucrative areas.
- Encourage coordination among local governments and regional agencies to streamline permitting and achieve economies of scale.
- Develop an open competitive process to achieve the most cost-effective investment of new dollars by optimizing use of existing infrastructure that ratepayers and taxpayers already have built.
To learn more, please contact Sunne Wright McPeak at email@example.com
Sunne Wright McPeak is President and CEO of California Emerging Technology Fund, a statewide non-profit foundation with 15 years of experience addressing broadband issues to close the Digital Divide in California. 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 reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
Bigger Investment Needed for Next Generation 9-1-1 Services, Experts Say
Former head of NTIA said it could cost $12 billion.
WASHINGTON, November 15, 2021–– Experts at a Federal Communications Bar Association event earlier this month said the current funding allocation for next-generation 911 services is inadequate.
Currently, under the Joe Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act, the new 911 services – which will allow people to share videos, images and texts with 911 call centers – is allocated $500 million.
“It’s not enough to fully fund 911,” David Redl, CEO of consulting group Salt Point Strategies, said on the FCBA’s “What Comes Next in 911” panel on November 4. Redl was formerly the head of the Commerce Department’s telecom agency National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Redl said the number could be “about 12 billion.” For Redl, the challenge is to address the funding gap for NG911 “when there’s skepticism in Washington and the [Federal Communications Commission and] when states have different ideas about the best way to allocate funding and best technology to use.”
Dan Henry, director of government affairs at the National Emergency Number Association, agreed.
While Henry said he’s excited about the national-level interoperability tools for call centers that will allow the ability to transfer emergency calls across states with the call’s incident file intact, the failure to get sufficient funding for NG911 puts health and safety at risk. “We’re not near what we need to get [NG911] across the finish line,” he said.
The technology to deploy NG911 is ready, added Chandy Ghosh, chief operating officer and general manager of emergency services at communications company Inteliquent. “It’s not a tech issue,” she said. Wireless clients have been testing NG911 with successful results.
Stakeholders need to communicate with government
Chris Moore, principal at consulting firm Brooks Bawden Moore, said a federal investment is required to deploy NG911. He suggested that industry stakeholders should convene to tell government what they need.
“For now we’ll get what we get, we’re going to continue to push for more funding, but it’s not going to be this round,” he said.
On October 26, the National Association of State 911 Administrators Association asked the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to assist with the implementation of NG911 by clarifying the agency’s authority to regulate the delivery of 911 services through internet protocol-based emergency networks and shift cost-bearing to service providers.
Another $700 Million for 26 States Through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
Over 400,000 locations across the U.S. will get broadband in this funding wave.
WASHINGTON, November 12, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday that it will authorize $709,060,159 for 26 states through its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
These are disbursements of the $9.2 billion that were announced in round one of the RDOF reverse auction that took place in the fall of 2020.
The rural fund supports new broadband deployment efforts for 50 broadband providers in 400,000 locations across the U.S. Much of the funding will go to nonprofit rural electric cooperatives to deploy broadband in their service areas.
But others awarded funding under the auction have already defaulted on coverage that they said they would provide as part of their winning bids.
The 26 states ready to receive Wednesday’s funding include Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that the announcement “highlights the agency’s commitment to supporting even more opportunities to connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, reliable broadband service while doing our due diligence to ensure the applicants can deliver to these unserved communities as promised.”
The Commission’s announcement comes after the FCC launched the second round of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program on Tuesday, granting $42.5 million for health care providers. This telehealth program and exceeds the FCC’s $150 million goal by reaching $166.13 million for telehealth funding.
These funding programs provide reimbursements for telecommunication and information services and connected devices the providers have purchased to continue their telehealth services. The Commission also announced $421 million on Monday to keep over 10 million students connected across the U.S. as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund.
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