April 29, 2021—Joe Biden has assigned the task of providing access to high-speed internet to all Americans to vice-president Kamala Harris, he announced in his first address to Congress Wednesday, signaling the portfolio’s importance for the administration.
Late last month, Biden announced an infrastructure plan with an earmarked $100 billion to provide all Americans, by 2030, with access to high-speed internet.
“It is going to help our kids and our business to succeed in the 21st century,” Biden said in his address. “I’m asking the vice president to lead this effort because I know it will get done.”
The move to put the second-in-command at the helm signals the importance of the broadband portfolio to the Biden administration, which inherited a pandemic that has exposed the digital divide between rich and poor, urban and rural.
The importance of high-speed internet has been stressed by experts since before the pandemic, but many have argued that the pandemic highlighted the shortcomings of American broadband infrastructure.
As Americans were told to hunker down and mask up, they increased their reliance on telehealth and telework services. The pandemic has also broadened the Homework Gap and caused unique problems for students, particularly those in rural communities and inner-cities.
Despite Republican caution on Biden’s infrastructure plan and his mass spending plan, which would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, members of the GOP have made it clear that they share the goal of connecting all Americans.
It Will Take Multiple Strategies to Provide Enough Spectrum for Nascent Technologies, Expert Says
Rysavy argued that it would take an “all of the above” approach to meet the coming need for spectrum.
WASHINGTON, May 27, 2022 – Spectrum sharing can provide unique opportunities for needed bandwidth, but it is not an end-all-be-all solution, and the U.S. cannot afford to turn down any strategies freeing up more spectrum, a spectrum expert said Wednesday during a Georgetown University event.
Spectrum sharing often refers to dynamic spectrum sharing, a process whereby an operator uses a radio band that is already being used by an incumbent operator. The incumbent may not use the band all the time, and thus the incumbent can allow the secondary operator to use the band when the incumbent does not need it.
During an event hosted by the university’s Center for Business and Public Policy, Rysavy Research CEO Peter Rysavy said that while this process can have useful applications, its utility is not limitless.
Rysavy explained that spectrum sharing solutions have only been developed to address specific scenarios for specific systems. “We do not today have any spectrum sharing solution that is general purpose – that can be applied to arbitrary systems,” he said.
This specialized and complex nature makes spectrum sharing solutions makes them not only more expensive, but also take longer to deploy.
Rysavy advocated for what he referred to as an “all of the above approach,” whereby spectrum sharing, licensed, and unlicensed spectrum strategies are utilized to address the U.S.’s growing need for broadband as 5G services continue to expand.
He referred to several killer applications for 5G, such as home broadband, augmented reality, and the metaverse that will be completely dependent on 5G infrastructure.
“We are really reaching the limits of physics as far as how efficient the technology is,” Rysavy said. “There are other things you can do on the edges, but there is only so far you can go with technology.”
Rysavy explained that growing physical infrastructure – such as increasing the number of small cell signal boosters – is not sufficient in resolving the need for bandwidth. “Ultimately, you do have to keep adding more spectrum into the equation – there is just no other way around it.”
Though Rysavy noted that wireless cannot compete with fiber in terms of bandwidth, he stated that it should not be viewed as a “wireless versus fiber” situation.
“The way to look at it is that we are extending fiber through the environment and close to the endpoint all the time,” he said. “The question then is just ‘how do we connect that last 100 yards?’”
Community Crowdsourcing Efforts Essential to Accessing Federal Broadband Funding
In the absence of reliable federal broadband mapping data, communities are taking matters into their own hands.
KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 27, 2022 –Two data experts speaking at the Mountain Connect conference here on Wednesday said it was vital for the Federal Communications Commission to maintain transparency about its methods as it produces an updated broadband map.
The release of $42.5 billion in federal broadband funding through the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration is contingent upon new broadband maps being produced by the Federal Communications Commission.
Agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has committed to delivering such maps by the fall. During a House Energy and Commerce Committee Oversight hearing on March 31, when asked about progress, she said: “Absolutely, yes. We will have [complete] maps in the fall.”
Still, many are skeptical.
In particular, states and localities are involved in data collection, too – if only to have data to challenge FCC maps. Lai Yi Ohlsen, director of Measurement Lab, and Dustin Loup, program manager of the National Broadband Mapping Coalition for the Marconi Society, said that detailing methodologies will be important to the challenge process.
Loup recommended that communities announce speed tests and include a survey in order to get a sense of where the participant is located, what plan they are paying for and encourage participants to take the test multiple times to see how Internet speeds fluctuate at different hours of the day.
Ohlsen and Loup also said that communities should provide speed tests in different languages and partner with community anchor institutions, local media, and radio stations for publicity.
Questions about the new federal map
The new broadband “fabric” under construction by the FCC aims to address granularity issues of previous maps by enabling address-by-address data. But as to the legitimacy of the new FCC maps, the duo said that the maps will still paint an inaccurate picture of where broadband is and is not accessible across the country.
This is because the data used to create the new maps, they said, will be based upon industry-advertised broadband speeds and not actual user-experienced speeds.
This is particularly worrisome because funds under the NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program will be awarded to each state and territory will be primarily based on the number of locations considered to be unserved with broadband, as defined by 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) down by 3 Mbps up. This is why cities, counties, and states are currently creating strategies to crowdsource residents in order to develop their own broadband maps in the event that the FCC misrepresents internet access options available to their residents.
Although the NTIA is required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to use the FCC’s new mapping fabric, they will also be subject to new scrutiny.
In particular, local governments, nonprofit organizations and broadband service providers can produce their own data to challenge the eligibility of a locality for grant funding.
The challenge process will begin once the FCC’s new maps are made public. Any government entity or nonprofit with conflicting evidence will be able to file their findings through an FCC platform, said Ohlsen and Loup.
Providers will be automatically notified of the challenge and have 60 days to respond to the challenger, in order to try and resolve the inconsistencies. If the entities fail to resolve differences in the conflicting data, the FCC will be responsible for making the final decision.
Wednesday, June 1, 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.
Supply Chain Transparency Legislation Important for Timely Broadband Bills
‘We want to make sure that the FCC has to…detect, problems long before they become crises.’
KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 25, 2022 – Senator John Hickenlooper, D-Col., said Wednesday at the Mountain Connect conference that legislation that would require the Federal Communications Commission to catch potential supply chain problems early is part of a larger effort to ensure America is connected to high-speed internet in a timely manner.
The Network Equipment Transparency Act, introduced by Hickenlooper in February of this year, would make the broadband supply chain problems more transparent to “ensure an on-time rollout of the broadband programs managed by the Federal Communications Commission.”
“We want to make sure that the FCC has to monitor, and that they detect, problems long before they become crises,” Hickenlooper said, emphasizing the importance of leaders having foresight for future needs.
Hickenlooper said that the bill would shine a light on the supply chain disruptions that are impacting broadband projects, as billions in funding awaits rollout from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.
Already, supply chain issues are pushing fiber deployments back and causing concern among the industry. Such supply shortages are also causing existing fiber build supplies to increase in price.
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