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Proving Current Speed Threshold As Insufficient A Hurdle For House Bill: Consultant

A House bill raising the minimum connectivity threshold will need to convince lawmakers it is necessary, Steve Perry says.

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Photo of Perry Bayliss from his firm's website

April 20, 2021—A proposed Democratic House bill, introduced last month that would increase the speed threshold for served communities, will need to sell the idea that the current bar for speed is insufficient, especially as the pandemic has made broadband availability a central issue, according to a government consultant.

The bill would create new categories for federal funding on broadband projects. The new definition of “served,” which was previously categorized as areas with access to speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload, would be updated to bump up the upload speed to 25 Mbps.

Low-tier would be considered areas with between 25/25 Mbps and 100/100 Mbps speeds, and medium-tier would be viewed as 100/100 Mbps to gigabit symmetrical.

Steve Perry of Perry Bayliss, a government relations firm, said at an event hosted by the Fiber Broadband Association last week that there are several key issues with the legislation that he felt would have to be addressed for it to be successful. First, he believed that while he and many other experts are proponents of 100 Mbps symmetrical service, there is still a significant amount of hesitancy on behalf of some policy makers.

Perry is echoing concerns made by Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly last month in a debate on the bill. O’Rielly argued that the bill’s threshold parameters would be a tough sell because the upload speed increase would exceed consumer needs. It would also lead to subsidized overbuilding because “most of the nation does not meet the new definition,” O’Rielly argued.

The build would, at its baseline, elevate the minimum upload speed threshold from 3 Mbps to 25 Mbps, making it symmetrical with the download speed.

Perry pointed to a contingent of policy makers that believe 25 Mbps download/three Mbps upload is sufficient. “We have a lot of work to do to overcome this question of whether what we consider to be inferior broadband service is adequate.” He added that this is especially important given the strains added during the pandemic, where everyone is utilizing broadband services more than ever before.

Mapping and overbuilding concerns

Perry also said that the mapping of underserved areas needs to be improved. He said that this has led to many Republicans criticizing the plan, stating that the administration “has put the cart before the horse.” Perry stated that the administration should not move forward on the plan until it has addressed these mapping shortcomings, because otherwise they would be spending money before they even know where the money ought to be allocated to.

A third issue Perry identified was overbuilding. For areas that already have minimal broadband investment, small broadband providers would now potentially be competing with a federally subsidized, municipal service. Perry referred to this as “unleashing investment,” and stated that this is again a sticking point for Republicans, who by and large would leave the development up to private companies.

A number of states currently have restrictions in place to restrict municipal broadband bills. This month, Washington state announced it would be rolling back restrictions on such bills. Meanwhile, some Republican representatives have pushed a proposed anti-municipal network bill in Congress.

Broadband Mapping

FCC Opens Broadband Data Collection Program

The data will go toward improved maps, which the FCC chair said will be available by the fall.

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Screenshot of Bill Price, vice president of government solutions for LightBox

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday officially opened its new system to collect broadband service information from over 2500 broadband providers.

The Broadband Data Collection “marks the beginning of [the FCC’s] window to collect location-by-location data from providers that we will use to build the map,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release.

Screenshot of Bill Price, vice president of government solutions for LightBox

Broadband providers will be required to provide availability claims and supporting data. Supporting data will include sections such as “propagation modeling information” and “link budget information.” The deadline to submit is September 1.

Rosenworcel said the agency has established consistent parameters that require broadband providers to submit data using geocoded locations that will “allow [the FCC] to create a highly precise picture of fixed broadband deployment, unlike previous data collections, which focused on census blocks, giving us inaccurate, incomplete maps.”

With this information, the FCC will build a common dataset of locations in the United States where fixed broadband service can be installed, called the “fabric.” Rosenworcel said that this fabric will serve as a “foundation upon which all fixed broadband availability data will be reported and overlaid in our new broadband availability maps.”

Following the completion of the maps, government entities and internet service providers will be given a challenge window where availability claims may be challenged based on submitted data.

Rosenworcel previously said that the improved broadband maps will be available by the fall.

States expect to be busy fact-checking these claims as they are released, said panelists at Broadband Breakfast Live Online Event Wednesday. States will be involved in individual challenging processes and will be expected to provide information on availability through individual speed testing.

States want to get these maps right because they serve as a broadband investment decision making tool, said Bill Price, vice president of government solutions for LightBox, a data platform that is helping states build broadband maps. That means many states are committed to obtaining accurate local coverage data to utilize federal and state funding.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022, 12 Noon ET –Broadband Mapping and Data

Now that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Notice of Funding Opportunity has been released, attention turns to a core activity that must take place before broadband infrastructure funds are distributed: The Federal Communications Commission’s updated broadband maps. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as implemented by the NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, these address-level maps from the FCC will determine the allocation of funds among states and serve as a key source of truth. Our panelists will also consider the role of state-level maps, the NTIA challenge process and other topics. Join Broadband Breakfast as we return to one of the subjects that we know best: Broadband data and mapping.

Panelists:

  • Bill Price, Vice President, Government Solutions, LightBox
  • Dustin Loup, Program Manager, Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition
  • Ryan Guthrie, Vice President of Solutions Engineering at ATS
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Bill Price, Vice President of Government Solutions, is responsible for LightBox broadband data and mapping solutions for government. Bill has more than 40 years in telecommunications and technology services development and operations. His track record includes delivering the Georgia statewide location level broadband map, the first fiber metropolitan area network in the U.S., and launching BellSouth’s internet service. LightBox combines proven, leading GIS and big data technology to transform how decisions are made in broadband infrastructure planning and investment.

Dustin Loup is an expert on internet governance and policy and program manager for the Marconi Society’s National Broadband Mapping Coalition. Much of his work centers on improving digital inclusion and establishing transparent, open-source, and openly verifiable mapping methodologies and standards.

Ryan Guthrie is VP of Solutions Engineering at Advanced Technologies & Services.  He started with ATS in 2006 and has been involved in all aspects of the business from sales and marketing through solution design and implementation.  Ryan also manages regulatory solutions for ATS and has been deeply involved with the federally funded broadband projects by assisting ISPs with their performance measures testing compliance.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

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.

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FCC

FCC Commissioner Supports Rural Telco Efforts to Implement ‘Rip and Replace’

In remarks at the Rural Wireless Association event on Wednesday, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks reaffirmed the FCC’s goals.

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Photo of Carri Bennet, general counsel of the Rural Wireless Association, leading a discussion at the summit on Wednesday by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 30, 2022 – Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks acknowledged the agency’s goal of obtaining secure broadband networks at an event of the Rural Wireless Association on Wednesday.

“We must ensure that our broadband networks are secure,” Starks said in keynote address at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here, delivered via Zoom. “This is evident in the constant barrage of attacks of American networks from hostile state and non-state actors.”

Starks continued, “insecure networks, by definition, can’t provide the stable, reliable, always on communications we need. Especially during emergencies… Broadband must be secure for the full benefits of broadband to be achieved.”

The issue of ridding American telecommunications networks of equipment manufactured in China was a constant theme during the conference.

In addition to Starks’ presentation, several sessions addressed the dilemma faced by telecommunications carriers, particular rural ones, that had in the past invested heavily in lower-cost equipment from Huawei, a leading Chinese manufacturer.

As the political winds have changed on the topic over the past three years, Congress has allocated funds for a “rip and replace” program. The FCC is expected to announce the providers that will receive nearly $2 billion as part of the program by July 15.

But some fear that number could be more than $4 billion short of needed funds.

“The funds available will cover only a very small portion” of the costs to replace Huawei with non-Chinese manufacturers, said Carri Bennet, general counsel of the Rural Wireless Association.

Potential new requirements imposed on telecom providers

The commission recently sought comment on whether it should require carriers that receive high-cost support to have include baseline cyber security and supply chain risk management plans.

If these plans are included in requirements, Starks said that American communication networks would be protected from bad actors. Moreover, they are consistent with requirements already included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Starks thanked the RWA for its activity and advocacy in the “rip and replace” proceedings, officially dubbed the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Reimbursement Program.

“The threat is real,” called Starks. “Companies that are deemed by the federal government to be a threat to the United States and its people can not have free reign in data centers featuring some of the most sensitive data of Americans.”

This comes only days after Commissioner Brendan Carr called for Apple and Google to remove Beijing-based popular video-sharing application, TikTok, from their app stores in response to the apps’ obligation to comply with the Peoples Republic of China’s surveillance demands.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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Infrastructure

States Must Ease Zoning, Permit Regulations for Broadband Buildouts

‘You have to take a serious look at red tape.’

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Screenshot of Heather Gold , Carolyn Price, Shane Butler and Bob Knight (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2022 – States must ease regulations surrounding local building permits and zoning that may prevent internet service providers from building broadband infrastructure, said experts in community and stakeholder engagement at a Rural Broadband Conference on Tuesday.

“If you want to attract private industry or want to bring fiber to your community, you have to take a serious look at red tape,” said Bob Knight, CEO of marketing firm Harrison Edwards Strategic Communications.

“Let’s be realistic,” Knight continued. “We are operating at a time where private investment can go anywhere, we are operating at a time where materials are scarce… now is not the time to mess around and slow up the process [through regulations.]”

The Upstate New York Town Association, a group dedicated to serving the needs of upstate New York communities, indicated that it would continue to lobby for an easing of state regulations to support broadband connectivity in its region.

Knight encouraged states to engage with stakeholders and local community members to make the process easier and build networks in a timely fashion. “Get as many [local] voices as you can.”

Communities in Upstate New York worked with local engineers to develop broadband models that work for their topography. Understanding the local geography proved beneficial in building out networks that connect to all community members, said Carolyn Price, executive director of the Upstate Association.

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