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Carri Bennet: Biden’s Broadband Plan is Key to Spurring Rural Economic Development, Jobs and Manufacturing

The American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, includes $100 billion to ensure broadband availability to every single American at affordable rates. This means building more broadband in rural areas.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Carri Bennet of the law firm of Womble Bond Dickinson

Editor’s Note: Author Carri Bennet also participated in the Broadband Breakfast Live Online discussion on “How to Spend Broadband Infrastructure” on April 7, 2021.

The American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, includes $100 billion to ensure broadband availability to every single American at affordable rates. This means building more broadband in rural areas to help close the rural/urban digital divide.

It also means making existing broadband affordable and accessible for those with low income. Broadband is critical to spur economic development in rural areas. If high-speed broadband is available in a rural area along with solid transportation infrastructure (roads and/or railways), then businesses can thrive.

Now that the administration has passed the baton to Congress to pass legislation, details on the distribution of the $100 billion, along with measures to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, still need to be ironed out.

While the plan is purposefully vague, it does propose that local communities be involved in the process. Allowing local community governments to define the areas that need broadband coverage makes sense, as those living and working in the communities know specifically where broadband is lacking and have a strong desire to see those areas served.

Communities don’t need to take on the task of building broadband networks alone

However, this doesn’t mean local communities have to take on the arduous task of building the broadband networks. Building broadband networks is not for the faint of heart. Network build-out requires project management skills and experience and should not be undertaken by novices.

It is best for the local communities to work with professionally staffed companies who are in the business of building broadband networks. Likewise, local communities should not be left to operate the networks after they are built because network operation is not part of their core competencies.

So while President Biden’s infrastructure plan includes enormously beneficial support for a connected America, the best legislation Congress can pass for broadband support will include provisions that prepare rural America’s digital infrastructure for the future. Future-proofing broadband means pushing fiber out as far as possible and utilizing wireless technology that can be upgraded through software, rather than changing out hardware — think open interfaces and interoperability, not proprietary systems that lock a wireless broadband provider to one vendor.

Assessing the current state of our digital infrastructure

In order to effectively distribute support for broadband deployment, we need to first determine what is out there — what’s the current state of our digital infrastructure, especially in rural and Tribal areas. While the FCC is working on gathering data to improve the broadband data maps, the infrastructure package will also have to address the definition of unserved or underserved areas, including defining what communities meet the definition of “rural” and what are acceptable upload and download speeds or latency to meet the definition of high-speed internet. Whether or not we should pin that benchmark to 25/25 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical or 100/100 Mbps, the key will be in the definitions’ and technologies’ ability to grow and change.

President Biden ran on the campaign promise of “building back better,” and better for rural America’s broadband infrastructure will mean building a flexible foundation for broadband technology’s growth and evolvement, as well as establishing the foundation for economic growth within our communities that broadband brings.

High-speed internet service will be the force bringing economic stimulus to rural communities in the form of reshoring manufacturing jobs that can be located in rural areas, migrating some of the urban workforce to rural areas so that those who can work remotely can have more space and lower living costs, and improving crop and livestock yield though precision agriculture. With all of this comes new jobs, homes, schools and hospitals to serve rural communities that have languished. When rural America prospers, so does the rest of America. It’s the infrastructure for economic prosperity, plain and simple.

As daily life becomes more and more dependent on the internet, future-proofing broadband infrastructure becomes more important, allowing us to rely on the same foundational infrastructure 20, 50 or 100 years from now. We need to prioritize and future-proof our networks with fiber and wireless architecture that uses open interfaces and interoperability solutions.

Choosing the right method to distribute billions of dollars for broadband

The method Congress chooses to distribute the billions of dollars that the American Jobs Plan proposes will also be crucial. Grants will be much more effective and accessible for communities in rural America. When sending funds to a community for broadband deployment, the federal government will need to vet and ensure companies have the resources, knowledge and experience they need to successfully complete the build-out and to keep the service operating. We can’t afford to watch another Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction fail and turn into yet another race to the bottom that will leave unserved or underserved communities without broadband, as many RDOF auction winners struggle to complete an impossible build-out.

The best solution is community grants that fund third parties, who have the expertise and experience, to build and operate the network. In the case of many service providers throughout rural America, the company may possess a natural monopoly, so the American Jobs Plan will need to recognize and support the service providers already operating throughout rural America — helping them to continue their hard work, connecting and expanding their network.

The plan does a good job to identify affordability as another barrier standing in the way of nationwide connectivity. While the Administration vows to work with Congress to have providers lower prices to more affordable rates, a portion of the puzzle involves ensuring rural service providers can continue to operate after the build-out, especially if pricing for the high-speed internet service needs to be affordable and on same footing as urban areas.

Ultimately, there’s no question the American Jobs Plan will help to bridge the digital divide. But it is simply a stepping stone in the much-needed, larger mobilization of our resources to fill the gaps and support economic development in rural America, using high-speed internet.

There is a lot of money proposed for broadband deployment, but those billions of dollars will be spread out over eight years. And in those years, we will need to focus on ensuring that our networks are built for the future.

Carri Bennet is an outspoken advocate for small rural carriers, having battled with regulators and large companies for more than 30 years to ensure that small rural businesses have a seat at the table and a strong voice in Washington. Bennet launched her own successful boutique communications and technology law firm prior to joining Womble Bond Dickinson, and she also serves as outside counsel for the Rural Wireless Association. She represents her clients before the FCC, state regulatory agencies, the courts and Congress, and has testified before the FCC, Congress and the courts on rural wireless issues. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

Expert Opinion

David Stokes: Optimizing Network Performance Through Segment Routing and Traffic Engineering

The past year has demonstrated that even the most basic activities can be conducted virtually.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is David Stakes, senior manage of portfolio marketing for Ribbon Communications

Editor’s Note: Author Carri Bennet also participated in the Broadband Breakfast Live Online discussion on “How to Spend Broadband Infrastructure” on April 7, 2021.

The American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, includes $100 billion to ensure broadband availability to every single American at affordable rates. This means building more broadband in rural areas to help close the rural/urban digital divide.

It also means making existing broadband affordable and accessible for those with low income. Broadband is critical to spur economic development in rural areas. If high-speed broadband is available in a rural area along with solid transportation infrastructure (roads and/or railways), then businesses can thrive.

Now that the administration has passed the baton to Congress to pass legislation, details on the distribution of the $100 billion, along with measures to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, still need to be ironed out.

While the plan is purposefully vague, it does propose that local communities be involved in the process. Allowing local community governments to define the areas that need broadband coverage makes sense, as those living and working in the communities know specifically where broadband is lacking and have a strong desire to see those areas served.

Communities don’t need to take on the task of building broadband networks alone

However, this doesn’t mean local communities have to take on the arduous task of building the broadband networks. Building broadband networks is not for the faint of heart. Network build-out requires project management skills and experience and should not be undertaken by novices.

It is best for the local communities to work with professionally staffed companies who are in the business of building broadband networks. Likewise, local communities should not be left to operate the networks after they are built because network operation is not part of their core competencies.

So while President Biden’s infrastructure plan includes enormously beneficial support for a connected America, the best legislation Congress can pass for broadband support will include provisions that prepare rural America’s digital infrastructure for the future. Future-proofing broadband means pushing fiber out as far as possible and utilizing wireless technology that can be upgraded through software, rather than changing out hardware — think open interfaces and interoperability, not proprietary systems that lock a wireless broadband provider to one vendor.

Assessing the current state of our digital infrastructure

In order to effectively distribute support for broadband deployment, we need to first determine what is out there — what’s the current state of our digital infrastructure, especially in rural and Tribal areas. While the FCC is working on gathering data to improve the broadband data maps, the infrastructure package will also have to address the definition of unserved or underserved areas, including defining what communities meet the definition of “rural” and what are acceptable upload and download speeds or latency to meet the definition of high-speed internet. Whether or not we should pin that benchmark to 25/25 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical or 100/100 Mbps, the key will be in the definitions’ and technologies’ ability to grow and change.

President Biden ran on the campaign promise of “building back better,” and better for rural America’s broadband infrastructure will mean building a flexible foundation for broadband technology’s growth and evolvement, as well as establishing the foundation for economic growth within our communities that broadband brings.

High-speed internet service will be the force bringing economic stimulus to rural communities in the form of reshoring manufacturing jobs that can be located in rural areas, migrating some of the urban workforce to rural areas so that those who can work remotely can have more space and lower living costs, and improving crop and livestock yield though precision agriculture. With all of this comes new jobs, homes, schools and hospitals to serve rural communities that have languished. When rural America prospers, so does the rest of America. It’s the infrastructure for economic prosperity, plain and simple.

As daily life becomes more and more dependent on the internet, future-proofing broadband infrastructure becomes more important, allowing us to rely on the same foundational infrastructure 20, 50 or 100 years from now. We need to prioritize and future-proof our networks with fiber and wireless architecture that uses open interfaces and interoperability solutions.

Choosing the right method to distribute billions of dollars for broadband

The method Congress chooses to distribute the billions of dollars that the American Jobs Plan proposes will also be crucial. Grants will be much more effective and accessible for communities in rural America. When sending funds to a community for broadband deployment, the federal government will need to vet and ensure companies have the resources, knowledge and experience they need to successfully complete the build-out and to keep the service operating. We can’t afford to watch another Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction fail and turn into yet another race to the bottom that will leave unserved or underserved communities without broadband, as many RDOF auction winners struggle to complete an impossible build-out.

The best solution is community grants that fund third parties, who have the expertise and experience, to build and operate the network. In the case of many service providers throughout rural America, the company may possess a natural monopoly, so the American Jobs Plan will need to recognize and support the service providers already operating throughout rural America — helping them to continue their hard work, connecting and expanding their network.

The plan does a good job to identify affordability as another barrier standing in the way of nationwide connectivity. While the Administration vows to work with Congress to have providers lower prices to more affordable rates, a portion of the puzzle involves ensuring rural service providers can continue to operate after the build-out, especially if pricing for the high-speed internet service needs to be affordable and on same footing as urban areas.

Ultimately, there’s no question the American Jobs Plan will help to bridge the digital divide. But it is simply a stepping stone in the much-needed, larger mobilization of our resources to fill the gaps and support economic development in rural America, using high-speed internet.

There is a lot of money proposed for broadband deployment, but those billions of dollars will be spread out over eight years. And in those years, we will need to focus on ensuring that our networks are built for the future.

Carri Bennet is an outspoken advocate for small rural carriers, having battled with regulators and large companies for more than 30 years to ensure that small rural businesses have a seat at the table and a strong voice in Washington. Bennet launched her own successful boutique communications and technology law firm prior to joining Womble Bond Dickinson, and she also serves as outside counsel for the Rural Wireless Association. She represents her clients before the FCC, state regulatory agencies, the courts and Congress, and has testified before the FCC, Congress and the courts on rural wireless issues. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Expert Opinion

Jeff Blum and V. Noah Campbell: Unleashing the Next Wave of American 5G through Competition in the 12 GHz Spectrum Band

Allowing 5G use of the 12 GHz band will lead to better broadband.

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The authors of this Expert Opinion are Jeff Blum of DISH and V. Noah Campbell of RS Access

Editor’s Note: Author Carri Bennet also participated in the Broadband Breakfast Live Online discussion on “How to Spend Broadband Infrastructure” on April 7, 2021.

The American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, includes $100 billion to ensure broadband availability to every single American at affordable rates. This means building more broadband in rural areas to help close the rural/urban digital divide.

It also means making existing broadband affordable and accessible for those with low income. Broadband is critical to spur economic development in rural areas. If high-speed broadband is available in a rural area along with solid transportation infrastructure (roads and/or railways), then businesses can thrive.

Now that the administration has passed the baton to Congress to pass legislation, details on the distribution of the $100 billion, along with measures to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, still need to be ironed out.

While the plan is purposefully vague, it does propose that local communities be involved in the process. Allowing local community governments to define the areas that need broadband coverage makes sense, as those living and working in the communities know specifically where broadband is lacking and have a strong desire to see those areas served.

Communities don’t need to take on the task of building broadband networks alone

However, this doesn’t mean local communities have to take on the arduous task of building the broadband networks. Building broadband networks is not for the faint of heart. Network build-out requires project management skills and experience and should not be undertaken by novices.

It is best for the local communities to work with professionally staffed companies who are in the business of building broadband networks. Likewise, local communities should not be left to operate the networks after they are built because network operation is not part of their core competencies.

So while President Biden’s infrastructure plan includes enormously beneficial support for a connected America, the best legislation Congress can pass for broadband support will include provisions that prepare rural America’s digital infrastructure for the future. Future-proofing broadband means pushing fiber out as far as possible and utilizing wireless technology that can be upgraded through software, rather than changing out hardware — think open interfaces and interoperability, not proprietary systems that lock a wireless broadband provider to one vendor.

Assessing the current state of our digital infrastructure

In order to effectively distribute support for broadband deployment, we need to first determine what is out there — what’s the current state of our digital infrastructure, especially in rural and Tribal areas. While the FCC is working on gathering data to improve the broadband data maps, the infrastructure package will also have to address the definition of unserved or underserved areas, including defining what communities meet the definition of “rural” and what are acceptable upload and download speeds or latency to meet the definition of high-speed internet. Whether or not we should pin that benchmark to 25/25 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical or 100/100 Mbps, the key will be in the definitions’ and technologies’ ability to grow and change.

President Biden ran on the campaign promise of “building back better,” and better for rural America’s broadband infrastructure will mean building a flexible foundation for broadband technology’s growth and evolvement, as well as establishing the foundation for economic growth within our communities that broadband brings.

High-speed internet service will be the force bringing economic stimulus to rural communities in the form of reshoring manufacturing jobs that can be located in rural areas, migrating some of the urban workforce to rural areas so that those who can work remotely can have more space and lower living costs, and improving crop and livestock yield though precision agriculture. With all of this comes new jobs, homes, schools and hospitals to serve rural communities that have languished. When rural America prospers, so does the rest of America. It’s the infrastructure for economic prosperity, plain and simple.

As daily life becomes more and more dependent on the internet, future-proofing broadband infrastructure becomes more important, allowing us to rely on the same foundational infrastructure 20, 50 or 100 years from now. We need to prioritize and future-proof our networks with fiber and wireless architecture that uses open interfaces and interoperability solutions.

Choosing the right method to distribute billions of dollars for broadband

The method Congress chooses to distribute the billions of dollars that the American Jobs Plan proposes will also be crucial. Grants will be much more effective and accessible for communities in rural America. When sending funds to a community for broadband deployment, the federal government will need to vet and ensure companies have the resources, knowledge and experience they need to successfully complete the build-out and to keep the service operating. We can’t afford to watch another Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction fail and turn into yet another race to the bottom that will leave unserved or underserved communities without broadband, as many RDOF auction winners struggle to complete an impossible build-out.

The best solution is community grants that fund third parties, who have the expertise and experience, to build and operate the network. In the case of many service providers throughout rural America, the company may possess a natural monopoly, so the American Jobs Plan will need to recognize and support the service providers already operating throughout rural America — helping them to continue their hard work, connecting and expanding their network.

The plan does a good job to identify affordability as another barrier standing in the way of nationwide connectivity. While the Administration vows to work with Congress to have providers lower prices to more affordable rates, a portion of the puzzle involves ensuring rural service providers can continue to operate after the build-out, especially if pricing for the high-speed internet service needs to be affordable and on same footing as urban areas.

Ultimately, there’s no question the American Jobs Plan will help to bridge the digital divide. But it is simply a stepping stone in the much-needed, larger mobilization of our resources to fill the gaps and support economic development in rural America, using high-speed internet.

There is a lot of money proposed for broadband deployment, but those billions of dollars will be spread out over eight years. And in those years, we will need to focus on ensuring that our networks are built for the future.

Carri Bennet is an outspoken advocate for small rural carriers, having battled with regulators and large companies for more than 30 years to ensure that small rural businesses have a seat at the table and a strong voice in Washington. Bennet launched her own successful boutique communications and technology law firm prior to joining Womble Bond Dickinson, and she also serves as outside counsel for the Rural Wireless Association. She represents her clients before the FCC, state regulatory agencies, the courts and Congress, and has testified before the FCC, Congress and the courts on rural wireless issues. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Expert Opinion

Craig Settles: Libraries, Barbershops and Salons Tackle TeleHealthcare Gap

Craig Settles describes the important role that community institutions have played in promoting connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Photo of Urban Kutz Barbershops owner Waverly Willis getting his blood pressure checked used with permission

Editor’s Note: Author Carri Bennet also participated in the Broadband Breakfast Live Online discussion on “How to Spend Broadband Infrastructure” on April 7, 2021.

The American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, includes $100 billion to ensure broadband availability to every single American at affordable rates. This means building more broadband in rural areas to help close the rural/urban digital divide.

It also means making existing broadband affordable and accessible for those with low income. Broadband is critical to spur economic development in rural areas. If high-speed broadband is available in a rural area along with solid transportation infrastructure (roads and/or railways), then businesses can thrive.

Now that the administration has passed the baton to Congress to pass legislation, details on the distribution of the $100 billion, along with measures to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, still need to be ironed out.

While the plan is purposefully vague, it does propose that local communities be involved in the process. Allowing local community governments to define the areas that need broadband coverage makes sense, as those living and working in the communities know specifically where broadband is lacking and have a strong desire to see those areas served.

Communities don’t need to take on the task of building broadband networks alone

However, this doesn’t mean local communities have to take on the arduous task of building the broadband networks. Building broadband networks is not for the faint of heart. Network build-out requires project management skills and experience and should not be undertaken by novices.

It is best for the local communities to work with professionally staffed companies who are in the business of building broadband networks. Likewise, local communities should not be left to operate the networks after they are built because network operation is not part of their core competencies.

So while President Biden’s infrastructure plan includes enormously beneficial support for a connected America, the best legislation Congress can pass for broadband support will include provisions that prepare rural America’s digital infrastructure for the future. Future-proofing broadband means pushing fiber out as far as possible and utilizing wireless technology that can be upgraded through software, rather than changing out hardware — think open interfaces and interoperability, not proprietary systems that lock a wireless broadband provider to one vendor.

Assessing the current state of our digital infrastructure

In order to effectively distribute support for broadband deployment, we need to first determine what is out there — what’s the current state of our digital infrastructure, especially in rural and Tribal areas. While the FCC is working on gathering data to improve the broadband data maps, the infrastructure package will also have to address the definition of unserved or underserved areas, including defining what communities meet the definition of “rural” and what are acceptable upload and download speeds or latency to meet the definition of high-speed internet. Whether or not we should pin that benchmark to 25/25 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical or 100/100 Mbps, the key will be in the definitions’ and technologies’ ability to grow and change.

President Biden ran on the campaign promise of “building back better,” and better for rural America’s broadband infrastructure will mean building a flexible foundation for broadband technology’s growth and evolvement, as well as establishing the foundation for economic growth within our communities that broadband brings.

High-speed internet service will be the force bringing economic stimulus to rural communities in the form of reshoring manufacturing jobs that can be located in rural areas, migrating some of the urban workforce to rural areas so that those who can work remotely can have more space and lower living costs, and improving crop and livestock yield though precision agriculture. With all of this comes new jobs, homes, schools and hospitals to serve rural communities that have languished. When rural America prospers, so does the rest of America. It’s the infrastructure for economic prosperity, plain and simple.

As daily life becomes more and more dependent on the internet, future-proofing broadband infrastructure becomes more important, allowing us to rely on the same foundational infrastructure 20, 50 or 100 years from now. We need to prioritize and future-proof our networks with fiber and wireless architecture that uses open interfaces and interoperability solutions.

Choosing the right method to distribute billions of dollars for broadband

The method Congress chooses to distribute the billions of dollars that the American Jobs Plan proposes will also be crucial. Grants will be much more effective and accessible for communities in rural America. When sending funds to a community for broadband deployment, the federal government will need to vet and ensure companies have the resources, knowledge and experience they need to successfully complete the build-out and to keep the service operating. We can’t afford to watch another Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction fail and turn into yet another race to the bottom that will leave unserved or underserved communities without broadband, as many RDOF auction winners struggle to complete an impossible build-out.

The best solution is community grants that fund third parties, who have the expertise and experience, to build and operate the network. In the case of many service providers throughout rural America, the company may possess a natural monopoly, so the American Jobs Plan will need to recognize and support the service providers already operating throughout rural America — helping them to continue their hard work, connecting and expanding their network.

The plan does a good job to identify affordability as another barrier standing in the way of nationwide connectivity. While the Administration vows to work with Congress to have providers lower prices to more affordable rates, a portion of the puzzle involves ensuring rural service providers can continue to operate after the build-out, especially if pricing for the high-speed internet service needs to be affordable and on same footing as urban areas.

Ultimately, there’s no question the American Jobs Plan will help to bridge the digital divide. But it is simply a stepping stone in the much-needed, larger mobilization of our resources to fill the gaps and support economic development in rural America, using high-speed internet.

There is a lot of money proposed for broadband deployment, but those billions of dollars will be spread out over eight years. And in those years, we will need to focus on ensuring that our networks are built for the future.

Carri Bennet is an outspoken advocate for small rural carriers, having battled with regulators and large companies for more than 30 years to ensure that small rural businesses have a seat at the table and a strong voice in Washington. Bennet launched her own successful boutique communications and technology law firm prior to joining Womble Bond Dickinson, and she also serves as outside counsel for the Rural Wireless Association. She represents her clients before the FCC, state regulatory agencies, the courts and Congress, and has testified before the FCC, Congress and the courts on rural wireless issues. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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