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Congress Can Rewrite the Telecom Act as It Funds Internet Infrastructure, Say Broadband Breakfast Panelists

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December 3, 2020 – It is possible to revamp the Telecom Act of 1996 and fund broadband infrastructure simultaneously – and, in fact, a broadband stimulus package will help overcome difficulties intrinsic in rewriting the benchmark law governing telecommunications.

That was the viewpoint of panelists participating in Wednesday’s Broadband Breakfast Live Online event in its “Broadband and the Biden Administration” series.

When asked about how the administration is planning to or should roll out a broadband plan, INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering said that the Biden administration will go “big and bold” on issues of broadband. Having spoken with the officials on the transition team of President-elect Joe Biden, Pickering said he believes that they will craft a policy that includes broadband for all, competition for all, and equity for all.

Also on the panel was Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, who agreed that the new administration will seek to use broadband as a way to increase opportunity for more people. He also said crafting rules about procurement of 5G wireless technology were additional ways to promote broadband as a solution to problems.

And Claude Aiken, CEO of the Wireless Internet Services Association, said his group’s key priorities going into the new administration were tech neutrality, inclusiveness, and ensuring that any broadband stimulus packages promote “shovel ready” projects.

Also see the article about “Broadband and the Biden Administration, Part 1,” “In Discussing ‘Broadband and the Biden Administration,’ Trump and Obama Transition Workers Praise Auctions,” Broadband Breakfast, November 22.

Although all panelists agreed that the Biden administration would likely try to reverse the repeal of net neutrality rules that took place under current Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, Pickering said that if the changes are run through the FCC, they would be through the more regulatory Title II of the Communications Act.

If, on the other hand, net neutrality were to be implemented by legislation in Congress it would likely be under a less regulatory section of the Communications Act, or under a newly-crafted section.

Congress can provide a solution to fix the policy whiplash the nation has had over the past decade, with net neutrality being repealed or reinstated with each successive administration.

Can Congress pass net neutrality legislation and broadband infrastructure legislation?

With the 25th anniversary of the Telecom Act coming up in February, Pickering said the country has an opportunity to create the next iteration of major communications legislation. In particular, the new act should shift the principle of universality from voice to broadband.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, moderator of the panel, pushed back and questioned whether Congress was capable of both funding broadband and rewriting the Telecom Act at the same time. But Pickering expressed confidence that broadband funding would be precisely the lubricant to to incentive compromise.

He said that the massive amount of broadband funding being discussed – the order of $100 billion – would help put broadband on the same scale that America put universal electrification during the New Deal.

Pickering and Schruers said they were both in favor of reinstating net neutrality; Aiken said he supported Pai’s repeal of the neutrality rules.

Panelists disagreed on matters of speed definitions. Aiken felt that maintaining the 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download / 3 Mpbs upload definition would give providers predictability and allow them to know where the administration was going.

Pickering said that to win the race against China, the country needed fiber-rich and symmetrical gigabit networks.

On the controversial question of changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, both Pickering and Schruers said they looked forward to exiting “the storm before the calm” that has become the presidency of Donald Trump.

As for Trump’s recent threat to veto a Defense Appropriations bill unless Section 230 was repealed, Pickering said it was likely a gambit to force the confirmation of Trump’s FCC nominee Nathan Simington.

See “Broadband Breakfast Live Online on Wednesday, December 2, 2020: Broadband and the Biden Administration, Part 2,” Broadband Breakfast

 

“Broadband and the Biden Administration” is sponsored by:

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

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.

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.

Funding

NTIA Broadband Official Scott Woods Joins Ready as Vice President of Community Engagement

Woods had been the inaugural Director of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

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Photo of Scott Woods

KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 24, 2024 – Ready announced that Scott D. Woods, who had been the inaugural Director of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives in the administration’s Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, will join the company as Vice President of Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships on June 3. He will also open an office for Ready in Washington, D.C.

Ready produces Broadband.Money, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

“Ready is a great company and its software product ReadyBOSS is one that will revolutionize the approach for developing and managing broadband projects in accordance with grant rules,” said Woods. “It’s the best way to make the most out of all of the historic funding that’s out there.”

While at the NTIA, Scott also served as a principal liaison between the BroadbandUSA and OIGC program offices, and key strategic partners and external stakeholder groups. This included representatives from state and local governments, telecommunications companies, for-profit and non-profit corporations, and colleges and universities.

Woods is a broadband funding, implementation and stakeholder engagement expert and a key member of the OIGC leadership team responsible for implementing the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 grant programs and the historic $65 billion broadband funding program authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

“There are few, if any, people in this country with Scott’s experience in helping communities close the digital divide,” said Ready Co-Founder Mike Faloon. “Our goal is to use the Ready platform to amplify Scott so that any community or operator can have access to him and his unique insights to guide them on their broadband journey.”

Wood received a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Urban Studies from Morehouse College; a Master of Arts in Public Policy (M.P.P.) from American University; and Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Howard University School of Law.

Ready is a company that makes the Ready BOSS software system. It enables internet service providers and local communities to use interactive maps to create proposed broadband coverage areas and then to create corresponding grant applications. It also helps applicants to find match capital. The system also helps ISPs manage subscribers, plans and revenue, monitor and manage their networks, and seamlessly offer Affordable Connectivity Benefits. And it helps grant awardees manage their extensive reporting requirements.

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Fiber

New Public Broadband Association Criticizes NTIA Rules, Boasts Strong Start for New Group

While praising some aspects of NTIA rules, the group said that “we can’t take a victory lap quite yet.”

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Photo of (left to right) TK, Bob Knight, Kim McKinley, Angela Imming at Broadband Communities Summit by Drew Clark

KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 24, 2022 – The America Association of Public Broadband on Tuesday praised many aspects of the U.S. Commerce Department’s rules for spending the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, but criticized some aspects of the regulations that will make it hard for cities to build broadband projects.

In a statement and press briefing at the Mountain Connect conference here, officials representing the association said that the $42.5 billion in spending under the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program will “go a long way to address the high-speed broadband access and equity gaps plaguing American communities.”

The group is chaired by Angela Imming, who is responsible for a municipal broadband project in Highland, Illinois. The other four officers of the organization represent cities of Kitsap, Washington, Traverse City, Michigan, UTOPIA Fiber in Utah, and the town of Ridgefield, Connecticut.

The statement and press conference were conducted by Kim McKinley, UTOPIA Fiber’s chief marketing officer and secretary of AAPB, and Bob Knight, who runs the public relations company Harrison Edwards but is also the commissioner of economic and community development in Ridgefield and a member of the AAPB board.

But AAPB, a new lobbying group that aims to represent the interest of municipalities seeking to build high-capacity broadband, also highlighted many problems.

“But we can’t take a victory lap quite yet,” said McKinley and Knight on behalf of the group. In particular, “these challenges include a cumbersome application process with a letter-of-credit requirement which serve as steep barriers to entry for local government, nonprofits, and small ISPs.”

“Additionally, the multi-year rollout of BEAD funds leaves many high-speed broadband projects out in the cold, limiting the options for those deploying prior to 2024.”

Referring to comments that Alan Davidson, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said earlier on Tuesday, the group said, “We were pleased to hear Assistant Secretary Davidson say at Mountain Connect today that more refinement will be necessary and that the NTIA team is on the case. We look forward to working with NTIA to ensure that the interests of local, regional, and state entities are heard and acted upon.”

The association was first announced on May 4 at the Broadband Communities Summit, and the group provided updates on its progress on Tuesday.

In the three weeks since the association’s announcement, the organization said that $200,000 had been raised from the equipment vendor and non-profit community.

The group now has an advocacy and policy group that is working with federal and state leaders to advance the interests of municipal broadband, an education group, and a membership group.

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Funding

NTIA Doing All it Can to ‘Pressure’ States to Allow Municipal Broadband for Infrastructure Builds

Agency head Alan Davidson says communities “play a huge role” in build deployment.

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Screenshot of NTIA head Alan Davidson and Broadband Breakfast's Drew Clark

KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 24, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is using all available tools to “pressure” states to allow municipal broadband to be used for infrastructure builds stemming from funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, agency head Alan Davidson said Tuesday.

Several states have laws prohibiting municipal broadband networks, which through its recently released notice of funding the NTIA is recommending be waived for upcoming infrastructure builds.

“We are gonna press states to make sure they are doing everything they can do under their laws to make, to be including those,” said Davidson.

Davidson’s comments came during an appearance at the annual Mountain Connect conference in Keystone, Colorado, during which he engaged in a question and answer session with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark following his agency’s release of its funding notices.

He stated during the event that via its notices of funding the NTIA will be flexible on program requirements for states so that maximum progress on infrastructure may be made, yet at the same time it will establish a baseline of federal rules for programs.

“The needs of different states are going to be different,” said Davidson.

He also clarified that the NTIA will be assigning employees to each state who will be responsible for overseeing fund distribution to their state, that notices of funding are not inclusive of all NTIA guidance such as on supply chain issues and additional assistance will come from the agency over time, and that for many broadband providers in order for their infrastructure projects to be economically stable over time both unserved and underserved populations must benefit from the infrastructure bill.

See also NTIA Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson Dishes on BEAD at Mountain Connect 2022, Community Networks, May 24, 2022

 

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