Connect with us

Rural

Broadband Breakfast Panelists Discuss How Rural Fund Recipients Can Prepare For Efficient Network Builds

Published

on

December 22, 2020 — With the closing of the bidding in Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund reverse-auction, many across the country are beginning to initiate groundwork for the federally-supported networks that will be deployed or expanded over the next 10 years.

To detail best practices for 180 new winning bidders, in Phase I of RDOF, a panel of network construction experts joined moderator Drew Clark, editor and publisher of Broadband Breakfast, in the most recent Tools for Broadband virtual session, a five-part Broadband Breakfast Live Online series.

Awardees preparing and planning their future deployments spoke about a range of topics, from preparing for material shortages and backlogs, to managing crews. The panel detailed many things necessary to know in order to roll out a new construction project with the least amount of stress.

“A lot of federal money being awarded, means a lot of construction work is underway,” said Lori Sherwood, director of commercial and market development at Render Networks. She said that it was the panelists’ “jobs as stewards to manage these projects effectively.”

Three-step process for first-time network builders

Greg Santaro, senior vice president of chief marketing and strategy officer at the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, detailed the three-step process his organization recommends for new network constructors.

Santaro recommended starting with a feasibility study, which is essentially a “high level view of all the different elements and costs necessary to build a network.” The feasibility study lays out what the project is going to take, but is “not something to base a budget on.”

After drafting the project overview, NRTC recommends entities create a far more detailed executive project plan. According to Santaro, EPPs are a more budget-oriented and detailed, and give much more specifics and alignment with project costs.

Finally, NRTC recommends that constructors track their ongoing budgets, as costs are likely to change throughout multi-year construction processes.

In addition to providing build-out strategies, panelists warned the winning bidders of things to watch out for throughout the construction process, including projected material shortages and rising material and labor costs.

“Resource constraints are real,” said Ryan McCowan, director of costumer engagement and solutions at ADTRAN, adding that fiber builders in the United Kingdom are experiencing similar constraints, as the build-out of fiber has exploded domestically over past years.

Sherwood prepared bidders for the ongoing budgeting required when building networks, saying that over the next “6 to 8 years the costs for everything is going to increase” annually. “As an industry we need to look at where we can find efficiencies and build,” said Sherwood.

Edward Barrett, vice president and practice leader at HR Green’s Fiber and Broadband Practice, warned RDOF recipients not to use ‘averages’ throughout the planning process, saying that individuals using industry pricing averages in feasibility studies gave them “a bad rep within the industry.”

Events in “Tools for Broadband Deployment” series, which is sponsored by ADTRAN and Render Networks, include:

“Tools for Broadband Deployment” is sponsored by:


Render Networks


ADTRAN

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

Former Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband. She is now Associate Broadband Researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Network Initiative.

Universal Service

Advocates Call for Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

Letter cites Carol Mattey report, which recommends broadening the base.

Published

on

Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, November 29, 2021 – A broad swath of organizations on Monday is calling for policymakers in Washington to reform and stabilize the Universal Service Fund by broadening its funding base to include broadband revenues.

The Universal Service Fund, which supplies the nation’s low-income and rural and remote communities with basic telecommunications services, currently relies on voice service revenues, which has been a dwindling for years. Debate has emerged about how the fund can be stabilized, with some asking for the money to come from a congressional budget item and others asking for it to come from broadband revenues.

The latter is being recommended by over 254 organizations, including public interest groups, anchor institutions, trade associations and broadband service providers, in a Monday call to action letter to policymakers in Washington. The letter cites a September report by Carol Mattey, a former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission, which said broadband revenues should be incorporated into the USF base of money to draw upon.

“Unfortunately, this universal service system is in danger of collapse because the mechanism that funds it has not been updated since it was adopted nearly 25 years ago,” the letter said. The USF program is a relic from 1997 and a product of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The letter features organizations including Public Knowledge, the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition, Gigabit Libraries Network, California Emerging Technology Fund, and a number of telecoms and telecom associations and anchor institutions from over a dozen states.

The contribution percent – the percent providers must pay of their voice revenues – has reached an all-time high in the second quarter this year, at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that. Mattey and the signatories, however, warn that the contribution could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years, as the fund operates at around $10 billion annually.

Citing the Mattey report, the letter suggests that including broadband revenues into the fund would reduce the USF fee to less than 4 percent, adding it would not stunt broadband adoption or retention, as fees are often passed down to customers.

“Our recommendation would reduce regulatory uncertainty, would better reflect evolving uses of services, would be straightforward to administer, and would be more equitable and nondiscriminatory for residential and business consumers than the current system,” the letter said.

“Moreover, the Federal Communications Commission could make this change under its existing authority without requiring new legislation,” the letter added, as Mattey and Greg Guice, Public Knowledge director of government affairs, said at a conference recently.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested earlier this year that Big Tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook should contribute to the fund because they benefit from broadband services. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called the idea “intriguing,” while FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington also raised the idea at an event in September.

Continue Reading

Universal Service

Experts Urge FCC Unilaterally Broaden Revenue Base of Universal Service Fund

Consultants say the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to do so.

Published

on

Carol Mattey and Greg Guice at INCOMPAS event on October 25.

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2021 – Telecommunications experts are recommending that the Federal Communications Commission unilaterally expand the revenue base of the Universal Service Fund to include broadband revenues, rather than waiting on Congress to do so.

Advocates such as Public Knowledge Director of Government Affairs Greg Guice cite congressional infighting over the bipartisan infrastructure bill as an example of inefficiency in the legislature that would stall the passage of urgent reform for the USF, a fund that helps deliver basic telecommunications services to low-income Americans and those in remote regions.

Telecommunications policy experts said at the INCOMPAS Show in Las Vegas October 25, on which Guice was a panelist, that it is essential that the USF force broadband revenues into the pool of funds, as the fund’s overreliance on voice revenues – even as those revenues decline – is putting a strain on the programs.

Guice and Carol Mattey, principal of Mattey Consulting LLC and former deputy chief of the FCC, told Broadband Breakfast Tuesday that the agency has the jurisdiction to broaden the base of the contribution to the USF under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 if it is in the public interest.

“My view is the FCC has the statutory authority to assess broadband internet access service,” said Mattey in an email. “Under existing law — specifically, section 254(d) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 —  the FCC has the statutory authority to require any ‘providers of interstate telecommunications’ to contribute to the universal service fund if the public interest warrants.

“The FCC has classified broadband internet access service as an information service,” she added. “Under the ’96 Act, the definition of an information service is a service that offers the capability to generate, acquire, store, transform, etc. etc. information ‘via telecommunications.’”

Recommendations for reform

Mattey published a report in September that laid out the case for the fund to be expanded to incorporate a broadband range of money sources, including broadband.

And there has been no shortage of recommendations to help the fund prosper. Earlier this year, a panel of experts debated the merits of having Congress wholly assume contributions to the fund from general tax dollars, while others suggested that recommendation would destabilize the fund because it would swing with the political winds. Those people, instead, focused on simply broadening the base to include other sources, including broadband.

More recently, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr penned an op-ed in Newsweek recommending the fund include contributions from Big Tech because that industry benefits from broadband. It was a suggestion that FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called “intriguing.”

But while Guice and Mattey argue for the FCC to step in and make changes unilaterally, in a one-on-one interview with the Internet Innovation Alliance in September, FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington – in pontificating about Carr’s recommendation for Big Tech contributions – said he didn’t want to get ahead of Congress on the matter, suggesting a wait and see approach.

USF in need of change

Over the last two decades, the USF has seen the revenues subject to its assessment decline by 63%. This money goes to support four main programs: high cost support for rural areas, Lifeline for low income areas, the E-rate program for schools and libraries as well as a rural healthcare support program.

This year, the contribution percentage relative to revenues hit an all time high.

The panel at the INCOMPAS show pinpointed the major factor behind declining USF revenues as decreases in mobile service revenues due to providers setting lower mobile rates. These decreases come despite continual increases in communications revenues overall.

Continue Reading

Funding

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.

Published

on

Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

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.

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending