June 19, 2020 — There is currently considerable buzz around the prospect of obtaining bids from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the largest federal initiative to subsidize rural broadband in America to date.
However, it is no secret that the rural digital funding will be allotted based off of maps that inflate the reality of broadband coverage in the country.
In a Thursday webinar sponsored by Broadband Communities, Jon Radermacher, city administrator of Little Falls, Minnesota, detailed how incumbent providers inflating the speeds they offered in Little Falls resulted in the city being ineligible to compete for federal funds.
Funding for RDOF Phase I targets areas, where broadband speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) down and 3 Mbps up are reported as “not offered” based on Form 477 data, which are also known to overstate the speeds incumbents provide.
The issue facing Little Falls is a problem facing cities all over the country, as the Federal Communications Commission is set to allocate more than three-quarters of the $20.4 billion fund based on inaccurate information.
“The city didn’t qualify for FCC funding because the maps said the city was served,” said Radermacher. “However, the service available was not adequate or high speed, [and] the networks weren’t robust or reliable.”
When the services offered by incumbent providers began to slow the economic development of the city, businesses operating in Little Falls wrote to city officials urging them to develop a solution and demanding access to fiber.
Forced to seek alternative funding solutions, city leaders turned to a private partnership with CTC, or Consolidated Telecommunications Company, a Minnesota-based advising company that works with utilities, municipalities and government entities to assist in building fiber networks.
“More cities are saying we need to do this now more than ever” said Joe Buttweiler, partnership development manager at CTC. “You have no time to lose.”
Buttweiler said that cities in the same situation as Little Falls needed to partner with like-minded companies to ensure their success.
“We believe strongly in fiber,” continued Buttweiler. “If a city is convinced fiber is not for them, then we aren’t the right partner.”
Today, Little Falls’ fiber backbone has expanded from the town’s business quarter, through its downtown region, to its school district. Radermacher said he was “excited to find ways to connect residential customers next.”
FCC Announces $163 Million in Second Round of Approved RDOF Funding
The agency is reevaluating winning bids after asking providers to ensure census blocks aren’t already served.
WASHINGTON, October 7, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday another approved round of funding from the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
The $163 million in approved money will go to 42 providers who will drive fiber to the home for gigabit services covering 65,000 locations in 21 states over the next ten years, the FCC said Thursday.
“More help is on the way to households without broadband,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release Thursday. “This is an important program for getting more Americans connected to high-speed internet, and we are continuing careful oversight of this process to ensure that providers meet their obligations to deploy in areas that need it.”
The FCC in July asked that providers conduct an assessment in areas for which they won money from the fund in December, because complaints emerged that the approved areas were already served with adequate connectivity.
The commission said 85 bidders chose not to pursue their bids in 5,089 census blocks because those areas were either served or could be wasted. Some attributed their enlightenment to updated FCC maps based on Form 477 data, an often criticized form of data collection that is reliant on service provider data.
The last round of approved money was last month, when the FCC approved a further 13 bidders.
Varying Technologies Needed to Make Widespread Public Library Wi-Fi a Reality
From direct fiber connections to low-earth orbit satellites, libraries can provide public Wi-Fi through varying means.
WASHINGTON, October 4, 2021 – The director of the Libraries Whitespace Project said libraries across the country will need varying ways to get connected and provide access to public Wi-Fi.
That means that while the “cheapest, most equitable, most economical way to connect every community with next generation broadband is to run fiber to all of the 17,000 libraries,” Don Means said Friday, other solutions will need to be considered where geography doesn’t allow for a direct fiber connection.
“Every community is a unique combination of density, topology, socioeconomics, existing infrastructure and also available spectrum and then whatever the local policy preferences are,” said Means, who was hosted by the Gigabit Libraries Network hosted as part of Libraries in Response series on Friday.
There is no one size fits all solution to connectivity, Means said. But vendors, he said, are often concerned with selling a single solution for the simple reason that it’s more efficient and profitable to do so.
A technology still in its infancy is low-earth orbit satellites for broadband, which hover closer to earth than traditional satellites and thus theoretically provide better connectivity than those flying higher above the earth’s surface. The first library in the world connected through LEO satellites is a tribal library located in northern New Mexico, Means said, noting that such technologies could help fill the connectivity gap.
SpaceX’s Starlink is racing to make its broadband constellation of LEOs a staple of rural and urban connectivity, as it has been beta testing its technology for months now.
Means added that some free Wi-Fi hotspots have served to cover entire communities.
“We talk about rural in terms of density, and we use the numbers of countywide density, people per square mile across the county, which is really low,” he said.
“But when you look at where people really live, most rural people live close together in small communities. It might be a mile or two across… which means that these few hotspots across town could cover the whole town.”
He used the example of the town of Plymouth, Nebraska, which set up a handful of these Wi-Fi access stations for $17,000 and gave the entire rural community access to the internet.
The GLN began the series in response to the pandemic, which made clear that broadband, connectivity, and the internet are fundamental to the nation’s wellbeing.
Christopher Ali’s New Book Dissects Failures of Rural Broadband Policy and Leadership
“Farm Fresh Broadband” explains the world of broadband policy and provides solutions to bridge the digital divide.
WASHINGTON, September 24, 2021—In his most recent book, University of Virginia Professor Christopher Ali argues that the ongoing battle for improved connectivity is not only far from over, but also critically flawed.
“Farm Fresh Broadband” proposes a new approach to national rural broadband policy to narrow the rural-urban digital divide. In Ali’s view, the lack of coordinated, federal leadership and a failure to recognize the roles that local communities and municipalities need to play in the deployment of broadband has contributed to a lack of competition between carriers, and ultimately, higher costs to consumers.
Just two days after it was released, Ali sat down for a video interview with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark to discuss his story – and Ali’s recommendations that resulted from his journey.
Ali raises the question about How the $6 billion in federal funds allocated to broadband is spent annually? Based on his findings, he makes policy recommendations to democratize rural broadband policy architecture and re-model it after the historic efforts to bring telephony services and electricity to Americans across the country.
In particular, Ali discusses how, in one chapter of his book, he raises the provocative question about whether “Good Is the Enemy of Great: The Four Failures of Rural Broadband Policy.” In his telling, less money, lower speed, and poor-quality broadband mapping have all contributed to an approach that, in seeking “good enough,” federal policy has failed Rural America.
Ali, an associate professor at UVA’s Department of Media Studies and a Knight News Innovation Fellow with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, is also the chair of the Communication Law and Policy Division of the International Communications Association and the author of two books on localism in media, “Media Localism: The Policies of Place” (University of Illinois Press, 2017) and “Local News in a Digital World” (Tow Center for Digital Journalism, 2017)
“Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity” available at the MIT Press.
See Professor Ali’s recent Expert Opinion for Broadband Breakfast, “Christopher Ali: Is Broadband Like Getting Bran Flakes to the Home?“
- Federal Trade Commission Will Likely Not Be Able to Implement Competition Rules, Panelists Say
- House Passes Ban on Chinese Equipment, 3.45 GHz Auction Reaches Reserve Price, Against a ‘Wi-Fi Tax’
- LEO Satellite Technology Should Be in All Schools, Gigabit Libraries Network Says
- Housing, Public Interest Groups Oppose Multitenant Exclusivity Agreements
- Broadband Breakfast on October 27, 2021 — When ‘Greenfield’ Fiber Meets ‘Brownfield’ Multiple Dwelling Units
- Federal Communications Commission Dispenses $544 Million in Rural Broadband Funds
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Antitrust4 months ago
Experts Disagree Over Need, Feasibility of Global Standards for Antitrust Rules
Broadband Roundup2 months ago
Senators Intro App Bill, Groups Drop TracFone Buy Complaint, States Want Shorter Robocall Deadline
Infrastructure3 months ago
Lumen Responds to Allegations it Underbuilds While Collecting Public Funds
Broadband Roundup2 months ago
Mapping Comment Deadline Extended, AT&T Gets Federal Contract, 5G and LTE Drive Microwave Demand
Antitrust4 months ago
House Judiciary Committee Clears Six Antitrust Bills Targeting Big Tech Companies
Antitrust3 months ago
Daniel Hanley: Federal Communications Commission Must Block Verizon’s Acquisition of TracFone
#broadbandlive2 months ago
Broadband Breakfast on September 1, 2021 — What’s Next for Broadband Infrastructure Legislation?
Section 2303 months ago
Facebook, Google, Twitter Register to Lobby Congress on Section 230