Connect with us

Digital Inclusion

Technology Policy Institute Panelists Say U.S. Needs a Prepaid Broadband Model for Low-Income

Published

on

Photo collage of speakers at the Technology Policy Institute session

October 27, 2020 – Prepaid broadband might be a good alternative for those who need connectivity but aren’t in a position to commit to a full broadband plan, panelists said at the Technology Policy Institute virtual summit on Thursday.

Ceri Howes, regulatory head at mobile analytics company Opensignal, explained that the incremental prepaid model worked well in sub Saharan Africa and could work in the U.S. If you can’t prove that you can pay for a broadband plan you can’t get one, explained Howes.

Judith Mariscal, professor at Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, a Mexican institute of higher education, agreed, saying that prepaid plans were how most of the world has gotten connected.

Howes said we need to be moving away from our obsession with speed and access in policy making and instead talk about issues of use. In our discussions of affordability, we should examine how we value what the consumer is receiving.

Irving Group principal Larry Irving argued for more consumer research before making policies, as policy makers often were in favor of giving whatever made the least disruption in the market instead of what was best for consumers. “Poor people are the most discerning customers,” he said.

Greg Rosston, senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, argued that 25 Megabit per second (Mbps) download / 3 Mbps upload service might not be that bad since it was supporting the panel’s Zoom call.

He said that digital literacy was not the reason that most people weren’t online. The price of broadband can be brought close to zero and people still won’t subscribe to broadband, he said.

Irving retorted that he didn’t know a single family that would take 25/3 Mbps if they could, and said that we shouldn’t be surprised if when we give people an inferior product they don’t use it.

He argued for reforming, but not cutting, current broadband programs, including Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which he said was not enough. He suggested that if the quality were increased along with the price, people might be more inclined to buy it.

Irving and Rosston agreed that a voucher program where families were given $30 to $40 a month to select broadband services of their choice, there would be more adoption.

Rosston suggested that the FCC look to places like Opensignal for better maps while they wait for the creation of their own.

Reporter Liana Sowa grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She studied editing and publishing as a writing fellow at Brigham Young University, where she mentored upperclassmen on neuroscience research papers. She enjoys reading and journaling, and marathon-runnning and stilt-walking.

Digital Inclusion

Broadband Breakfast Interview With Michael Baker’s Teraira Snerling and Samantha Garfinkel

Digital Equity provisions are central to state broadband offices’ plans to implement the bipartisan infrastructure law.

Published

on

Digital Equity provisions are central to state broadband offices’ plans to implement the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grant program under the bipartisan infrastructure law.

In this interview with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, Michael Baker International Broadband Planning Consultants Teraira Snerling and Samantha Garfinkel go into detail about the role of Digital Equity Act plans in state broadband programs.

Michael Baker International, a leading provider of engineering and consulting services, including geospatial, design, planning, architectural, environmental, construction and program management, has been solving the world’s most complex challenges for over 80 years.

Its legacy of expertise, experience, innovation and integrity is proving essential in helping numerous federal, state and local navigate their broadband programs with the goal of solving the Digital Divide.

The broadband team at Michael Baker is filling a need that has existed since the internet became publicly available. Essentially, Internet Service Providers have historically made expansions to new areas based on profitability, not actual need. And pricing has been determined by market competition without real concern for those who cannot afford service.

In the video interview, Snerling and Garfinkel discuss how, with Michael Baker’s help, the federal government is encourage more equitable internet expansion through specific programs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The company guides clients to incorporate all considerations, not just profitability, into the project: Compliance with new policies, societal impact metrics and sustainability plans are baked into the Michael Baker consultant solution so that, over time, these projects will have a tremendous positive impact.

Continue Reading

Digital Inclusion

Historically Underrepresented Communities Urged to Take Advantage of BEAD Planning

BEAD requirements a unique opportunity for underrepresented communities to be involved in broadband builds.

Published

on

Photo of Mara Reardon, NTIA’s deputy director of public engagement

WASHINGTON, January 25, 2023 – Underrepresented communities are being urged to take advantage of the opportunity brought by the billions in funding coming from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by actively planning for the money being allocated by June 30.

The $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program is a unique opportunity for historically underrepresented communities to be heard in critical digital equity conversations, said experts at a United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event Tuesday.

“For once, they are being included in the implementation process,” said Mara Reardon, the NTIA’s deputy director of public engagement, adding this is a “unique opportunity.” It is essential that communities take advantage of this by approaching state broadband offices, drafting broadband expansion plans, and showing up in commenting processes, Reardon urged.

Furthermore, historically underrepresented communities can make themselves available as contractors by subscribing to state mailing lists, being aware of requests going out, and participating in the state bidding process, said Reardon.

The notice of funding outlines several requirements for inclusion of historically underrepresented groups in the planning process, Reardon reiterated. Specifically, it mandates that eligible entities include underrepresented stakeholders in the process of developing their required five-year plans. This type of requirement is unique to federal infrastructure grants, said Reardon.

Due to the nature of the grant requirements, states must take necessary affirmative steps to ensure diverse groups are used in contracting and planning, added Lynn Follansbee of telecom trade association USTelecom. This means that projects will be outsourced to various providers and suppliers and that the work will be broken into pieces to involve as many groups as possible, said Follansbee.

The NTIA is making an effort to ensure that all community members are heard in critical issues, even establishing the office of public engagement for that purpose. It also said it has awarded $304 million in planning grants for broadband infrastructure builds to all states and Washington D.C. by the end of 2022.

Continue Reading

Digital Inclusion

CES 2023: Congressional Oversight, Digital Equity Priorities for New Mexico Senator

Sen. Lujan once again voiced concern that the FCC’s national broadband map contains major inaccuracies.

Published

on

Photo of Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., in February 2018 by Keith Mellnick used with permission

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2023 – Sen. Ben Ray Lujan on Friday endorsed “oversight at every level” of executive agencies’ broadband policies and decried service providers that perpetuate digital inequities.

Lujan appeared before an audience at the Consumer Electronics Show with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., to preview the tech-policy priorities of the 118th Congress.

Among Washington legislators, Senators had CES 2023 to themselves: Representatives from the House of Representatives were stuck in Washington participating on Friday in the 12th, 13th and 14th votes for House Speaker.

Congress allocated $65 billion to broadband projects in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, the bulk of which, housed in the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, is yet to be disbursed. The IIJA funds are primarily for infrastructure, but billions are also available for digital equity and affordability projects.

Several federal legislators, including Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., have called for close supervision of Washington’s multitude of broadband-related programs. At CES on Friday, Warner argued that previous tranches of broadband funding have been poorly administered, and Lujan once again voiced concern that the Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband map, whose data will be used to allocate BEAD funds, contains major inaccuracies.

Affordable, high-speed broadband is now a necessity, stated Warner. Lujan argued that policy must crafted to ensure all communities have access to connectivity.

“The [Federal Communications Commission] is working on some of the digital equity definitions right now…. I don’t want to see definitions that create loopholes that people can hide behind to not connect communities,” the New Mexico senator said, emphasizing the importance of “the digital literacy to be able take advantage of what this new connection means, so that people can take advantage of what I saw today [at CES].”

At a Senate hearing in December, Lujan grilled executives from industry trade associations over allegations of digital discrimination.

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts
* = required field

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner

Trending