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Reverse Auctions, State-Led Funding, Higher Speeds: Speculation Mounts About Final Infrastructure Bill

Without further word on what to expect in the bipartisan infrastructure framework, Doug Dawson examines what direction it could take.



July 6, 2021—With the Biden Administration nearing a bipartisan infrastructure agreement, and questions swirling about exactly what the broadband component could look like, one consultant believes the final version could include a reverse auction process to disburse funds and a push for a higher speed minimum.

Both Democrats and Republicans are claiming victory for infrastructure with a tentative compromise that would allocate $65 billion for high-speed broadband. Though this is a far cry from the $100 billion that President Joe Biden’s initial “American Jobs Plan” called for in March, it is also significantly higher than the GOP’s first counter of $20 billion for broadband.

Though both Biden and Speaker of the House Sen. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, have made it clear that they will not support the legislation without specific preconditions, there are still so many unknowns regarding the legislation.

Doug Dawson, the owner and president of CCG Consulting, joined Broadband Breakfast’s Live Online event on June 30 to discuss some of the possible models and solutions that the bill in question might provide.

Reverse auction and state-led fund distribution

He explained that there are a handful of ways that this bill could be rolled out. The first model he pointed to was the reverse auction model, whereby funds are given to those bidders who require the least amount of money to build.

Dawson argued that even though this model was suggested in the “Accessible, Affordable, Internet for All Act” that was put forward by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, he did not anticipate that it would garner much support.

“People have a whole lot of problems with some of the things that popped up in [previous auctions] so I don’t think that idea has as much merit among the talking heads in Washington as it used to,” he said, “and we are certainly not hearing nearly as much support for it.”

In addition to the “Accessible, Affordable, Internet for All Act”, Dawson also brought up the “Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy Act.” This bipartisan model would see that money is given directly to the states and can be distributed for projects as each state deems necessary.

He pointed out that the wrinkle with this model is that while some states will do a fine job ensuring that the funding is distributed one way, others may deviate completely from tried-and-true methods. “Every state has their own politics,” Dawson said. “States are going to decide very different solutions, but I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with that.”

But Dawson stated that these are only some of the more notable proposals, and there are a myriad of models being circulated through Congress right now. “Pretty much every major topic related to how you would give broadband money out is probably on the table right now,” he continued. “I do not imagine [that the final version of the bill] is going to look like either one of those two bills—it’s going to be something brand new.”

Biden may push for 100 Mbps symmetrical speed minimum

Though he said that the plan will likely be under a model that is yet to be revealed, Dawson did point to several items that observers should expect to see the Biden Administration push for. He said that the White House will likely push for an emphasis on providing broadband for low-income communities and 100 Megabits per second symmetrical service as a minimum definition for broadband.

Though there has been little discussion about making any of these bills explicitly aligned with any one technology, Dawson said that there are few technologies that can sustain 100 Mbps symmetrical service, and that fiber may become the de facto technology used.

Satellite technologies in the mix

Despite this, he said that technologies like satellite need to be a part of the conversation for the hard-to-reach homes that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to cover.

“I do not think that [the federal government] has ever said every single home in America gets broadband; we want to get 99 something percent right but that last one percent is incredibly expensive.”

Only time will tell which direction the bipartisan framework will take. Whether Washington decides to model the “Bridge Act,” utilize a reverse auction model, or try something completely new and different, the experts are still left to guessing until more word comes down from Congress or the White House.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the June 30, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “5G, Digital Real Estate Investment Trusts and the Future of Broadband Infrastructure”

There are many potential outcomes and implications of the long-awaited federal broadband infrastructure bill. Join Broadband Breakfast for a session delving into some of the possibilities, as well as data centers, towers and Digital REITs, as the race for 5G accelerates.

More about Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021 at Broadband Communities Summit


  • Doug Dawson, President, CCG Consulting
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast

Doug Dawson has worked in the telecom industry since 1978 and has both a consulting and an operational background. He and CCG specialize in helping clients launch new broadband markets, develop new products and finance new ventures. CCG, the largest telecom consulting firm in the United States in terms of clients, has a varied telecommunications practice and helps clients with engineering, regulatory, operation and planning issues. Dawson also writes the daily blog, which covers a wide range of topics for broadband and related subjects.

Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. In addition to representing public and private providers on broadband issues, Drew is actively involved in issues surrounding interconnected Voice-over-Internet-Protocol service, spectrum licenses, robocalling including STIR/SHAKEN, and the provision of video franchises and “over-the-top” copyrighted content.

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.

Reporter Ben Kahn is a graduate of University of Baltimore and the National Journalism Center. His work has appeared in Washington Jewish Week and The Center Square, among other publications. He he covered almost every beat at Broadband Breakfast.


Treasury Department and Local Officials Tout American Rescue Plan Funds

Federal funding program prepares communities for economic turmoil.



Photo of Jacob Leibenluft of the U.S. Department of the Treasury

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2023 – American Rescue Plan Act funds sets the United States ahead in economic resiliency, said experts at a Brookings Institution event Thursday. 

When ARPA was passed in March of 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury was tasked with ensuring that funds would be used to build sustainable programs past the 2026 expenditure deadline as well as programs that would build capacity for future government programs, said Jacob Leibenluft of the Treasury.  

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, states did not have the systems in place to reach people in need of help, said Leibenluft. ARPA funds help communities invest in a strong system to provide support to community members, which sets the United States ahead of where it would have been otherwise, he said, claiming that the funds will help the country weather upcoming economic turmoil. 

To take advantage of this opportunity, Leibenluft suggested that localities develop and share best practices. The most effective way to use ARPA funds is to develop the “plumbing” that connects citizens to government programs which localities can then maintain on their own budgets, he said. 

“There are certain things that are just not sustainable in the absence of ARPA funds,” he continued, “what we have built is really a demonstration of programs that can be sustained through a combination of local, state and federal funds.” 

Local governments need to view ARPA as one-time spending, added Tishara Jones, mayor of Saint Louis, Missouri. Saint Louis did not develop any ARPA-reliant programs that would extend beyond the 2026 expenditure deadline. Instead, the city is finding revenue in its existing budget for supporting new programs on its own. 

Even so, state officials suggest that the Treasury’s 2026 expenditure deadline is too soon, claiming that not all funds necessary for broadband infrastructure upgrades will be received by that time.  

The American Rescue Plan gave $1.9 trillion for direct financial assistance, education support, health programs, transportation, and state and local fiscal recovery. An estimated 10% of funds are being used to build infrastructure, including broadband deployment, according to Brookings. The program’s allocation phase is set to be complete by the end of 2024.  

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Expert Opinion

David Strauss: How Will State Broadband Offices Score BEAD Applications?

Fiber, coax and fixed wireless network plans dependent on BEAD funding demand scrutiny.



The author of this Expert Opinion is David Strauss, Principal and Co-Founder of Broadband Success Partners.

Given the vital ways in which access to broadband enables America, adequate Internet for all is a necessary and overdue undertaking.  To help close the digital divide, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment funding for the last mile. Add to this the estimated level of subgrantee matching funds and the total last mile figure rises to $64 billon, according to the BEAD Funding Allocation and Project Award Framework from ACA Connects and Cartesian.

The federal funds will be disbursed by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to the State Broadband Offices who will then award subgrants to service providers. On June 30, each state will find out their allocation amount. By 2024, the states will establish a competitive subgrantee process to start selecting applicants and distributing funds.

A critical element of the selection process is the methodology for scoring the technical merits of each subgrantee and their proposal. Specific assessment criteria to be used by each state are not yet set. However, the subgrantee’s network must be built to meet these key performance and technical requirements:

  • Speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload
  • Latency low enough for “reasonably foreseeable, real-time interactive applications”
  • No more than 48 hours of outage a year
  • Regular conduit access points for fiber projects
  • Begin providing service within four years of subgrant date

What level of scrutiny will each state apply in evaluating the technical merits of the applicants and their plans?

Based on our conversations with a number of state broadband leaders, the answers could be as varied as the number of states. For example, some states intend to rigorously judge each applicant’s technical capability, network design and project readiness. In contrast, another state believes that a deep upfront assessment is not needed because the service provider will not receive funds until certain operational milestones are met. Upon completion, an audit of the network’s performance could be implemented.

We, at Broadband Success Partners, are a bit biased about the level of technical scrutiny we think the states should apply. Having assessed over 50 operating and planned networks for private sector clients, we appreciate the importance of a thorough technical assessment. Our network analyses, management interviews and physical inspections have yielded a valuable number of dos and don’ts. By category, below are some of the critical issues we’ve identified.

Network Planning & Design

  • Inadequate architecture, lacking needed redundancy
  • Insufficient network as-built diagrams and documentation
  • Limited available fiber with many segments lacking spares

Network Construction

  • Unprotected, single leased circuit connecting cities to network backbone
  • Limited daisy-chained bandwidth paths on backhaul network
  • Lack of aerial slack storage, increasing repair time and complexity

Network Management & Performance

  • Significant optical ground wire plant, increasing potential maintenance cost
  • Internet circuit nearing capacity
  • Insufficient IPv4 address inventory for planned growth


  • Obsolete passive optical network equipment
  • Risky use of indoor optical network terminals in outdoor enclosures
  • Sloppy, untraceable wiring

Technical Service / Network Operations Center

  • Technical staff too lean
  • High labor rate for fiber placement
  • Insufficient NOC functionality

While the problems we uncover do not always raise to the level of a red flag, it happens often enough to justify this exercise. Our clients who invest their own capital in these networks certainly think so. The same should hold true for networks funded with taxpayer money. Fiber, coax and fixed wireless network plans dependent on BEAD funding demand serious scrutiny.

David Strauss is a Principal and Co-founder of Broadband Success Partners, the leading broadband consulting firm focused exclusively on network evaluation and technical due diligence. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

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

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Treasury Feels Obligated to Inform Federal Agencies about Capital Projects Fund Projects Locations

Department of Treasury is working to provide guidance for providers on how to grow their business.




Photo of the Treasury Department building in Washington.

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2023 – The Treasury Department is focusing on keeping afloat other federal agencies about completed broadband builds using its Capital Projects Fund to ensure federal money is not wasted, according to the program’s director on Wednesday.

Joseph Wender said on a Fiber for Breakfast web event that the department requires recipients of money from the fund to provide the coordinates of “every location that’s been served.

“Because we do feel an obligation to our federal partners, particularly the [Federal Communications Commission] and the [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] to ensure that our federally funded locations are fit into the larger map,” Wender added.

“We need to have a global awareness of where all of our funds are,” he added. “That is a reporting requirement that we take very seriously.”

The FCC released its first version of the broadband map in November and subsequently opened up a second round of data collection on January 3.

Since then there have been challenges sent to the agency on the accuracy of the map, including where areas are reported to have builds but don’t.

The map will be used by the NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program to deliver $42.5 billion to the states by June 30.

Industry associations and experts have requested that the FCC map add more information, including up-to-date information on where other federal and state funds are being allocated.

In January, experts agreed at an event that the federal funds should be better tracked in order to maximize its benefits.

“Money goes out from the government in broadband stimulus, but we don’t track where it’s going very well,” said Sarah Oh Lam, senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, a federal funded research and development center. “We really don’t know outcomes…and I don’t see many efforts in mandating that we collect data from this [stimulus] round from the grantees that receive money.

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