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Broadband Breakfast Experts Discuss the Benefits of Multiple Federal Broadband Initiatives, including Rural Broadband Funds and Opportunity Zones

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June 17, 2020 — In a Broadband Breakfast Live Online webcast on Wednesday, panelists explored the impact that current federal funding initiatives will have on broadband access.

The webcast previewed a Digital Infrastructure Investment, a Physical/Virtual Event at the Broadband Communities Summit on August 10. (Learn more about and register for Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment.)

“There is a political consensus that we need to finish the job that the National Broadband Plan set out to do 10 years ago,” said Blair Levin, former executive director of the national plan. “I think momentum is building towards more significant federal government intervention.”

The Trump Administration is close to sending Congress a new infrastructure package, Levin said, and House Democrats are pushing for a bill that could dedicate as much as $80 billion in federal funding to closing the digital divide.

Panelists emphasized the vast range of opportunities currently available for service providers. Between federal funding, state grant programs and private sector investment incentives like Opportunity Funds, billions of dollars are being dedicated to expanding broadband service.

The panelists contended that local leadership will be key to delivering strategic solutions that fully utilize available funds.

They also championed establishing public-private partnerships to secure necessary funding, especially as many electric cooperatives are seeking funds from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

“Communities need to ask themselves what access model will help get investors interested,” said Carol Mattey, former deputy chief of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau. A legal requirement of RDOF is that funding must go to eligible telecommunications carriers.

The slew of funding initiatives currently available allows for a mixture of different eligibility standards, internet models, latency thresholds and infrastructure technologies to be employed as the industry attempts to tackle the digital divide.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all plan,” said Levin. “Each funding initiative is a tool and it’s important to have many.”

Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, spoke to the importance of broadband in promoting “green” economic development. He also highlighted the role that Opportunity Zones, a method for tax-deferred investment, can play in promoting green developments, including for broadband.

Opportunity Zones were created as part of the 2017 law overhauling the tax code.

Funding

Venture Capital, Private Equity and Institutional Investors on Digital Infrastructure Investment

Panel 4 video. Join the Broadband Breakfast Club to watch the full-length videos from Digital Infrastructure Investment.

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Video from Panel 4 at Digital Infrastructure Investment: Tom Coverick, Managing Director, Keybanc Capital Markets, David Wedick, Chief Financial Office, Maine Connectivity Authority, and Vikash Harlalka, Equity Research Analyst, Communications Services Team, New Street Research, moderated by Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast,

For a free article summarizing the event, see States and Municipalities Should Move Quickly on Infrastructure Funding, BEAD or Not: Beginning financial planning early and allow time to tweak statutes that may stand in the way of certain funding options, Broadband Breakfast, November 18, 2022.

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Open Access

Financing Mechanisms for Community Broadband, Panel 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment

Panel 3 video. Join the Broadband Breakfast Club to watch the full-length videos from Digital Infrastructure Investment.

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Video from Panel 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment: Kim McKinley, Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber, Jeff Christensen, President & CEO, EntryPoint Networks, Jane Coffin, Chief Community Officer, Connect Humanity, Robert Wack, former Westminster Common Council President and leader of the Open Access Citywide Fiber Network Initiative, and moderated by Christopher Mitchell, Director, Community Broadband Networks, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

For a free article summarizing the event, see Communities Need Governance Seat on Broadband Builds, Conference Hears: Communities need to be involved in decision-making when it comes to broadband builds, Broadband Breakfast, November 17, 2022

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Broadband Mapping & Data

Right Track or Wrong Track on Mapping? Panel 2 at Digital Infrastructure Investment

Panel 2 video. Join the Broadband Breakfast Club to watch the full-length videos from Digital Infrastructure Investment.

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Video from Panel 2 at Digital Infrastructure Investment: Moderated by David McGarry, Reporter, Broadband Breakfast, with Bryan Darr, Executive Vice President of Smart Communities, Ookla, Mike Conlow, Director of Network Strategy, Cloudflare, and Jim Stegeman, President, CostQuest Associates.

For a free article summarizing the event, see ‘It Is a Concern’: FCC Contractor Responds to Commercial Conflict Concerns Over Map Challenge Process: CostQuest’s CEO said states need to look at their vendors if they pose a problem challenging FCC map data, Broadband Breakfast, November 17, 2022

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