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Ligado and Competitive Carriers Association Talk Unlocking Broadband Coverage at Lunch Event

Broadband Breakfast, in person and for lunch, heard about the possibilities with spectrum sharing and combining technologies for coverage.

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WASHINGTON, September 9, 2021—Doug Smith, president and CEO of Ligado Networks, said at Broadband Breakfast’s first in-person lunch event Wednesday that a combination of satellite and on-the-ground technologies will prove to improve connectivity for all Americans.

Smith said the ubiquitous coverage of satellites seamlessly coupled with the speed and penetrative capabilities of terrestrial networks thanks to 5G technology is where broad connectivity is unlocked.

Ligado, a satellite and technology company, has fostered close relationships with companies like Mavenir and Nokia to see these visions realized and allow more people around the country to access broadband and cellular services no matter where they are in the country. In 2020, Ligado received unanimous approval from the FCC to launch spectrum sharing operations in the L band, despite fierce push-back from the Department of Defense.

The question of providing better service to rural consumers is of particular importance to the Competitive Carriers Association, whose President and CEO Steven Berry also joined Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark for lunch.

Though they are not the largest advocate in the telecom sector, they provide rural carriers with a voice in areas that are economically difficult to serve. “Many of our members try and effectively serve rural areas that either no one else tried to attempt, or they are the most difficult areas in the United States,” Berry said. “That is why we have always had an appreciation for Ligado.”

Berry explained how historically, Ligado promoted a wholesale model that was designed to work with small carriers. He went further, explaining that for many regions, internet connectivity does not make economic sense, and that business models are often unsustainable due to the often sparsely populated and difficult terrain.

Ligado’s model allowed these companies, he said, to enhance their coverage, backhaul, and overall cost effectiveness. “We are of the opinion that every tool in the tool has to be utilized and each situation is unique,” Berry said.

“Each carrier that tries to service those unique areas is also unique—the possibilities to team with Ligado [puts small carriers in a great position to pull that off].”

The push for ubiquitous 5G

Whether it is improving coverage through expanding into more bands or creating handheld devices capable of utilizing satellite and terrestrial technologies, Ligado pushing to unlock the true capabilities of 5G technologies.

In the past couple years, Ligado has focused its efforts on bringing 5G to the forefront of its services. “This is the transition of a generation of technology that is not like anything we have seen before,” Smith said.

“This is not like 2G to 3G, or even 3G to 4G.” He described Ligado’s role, which he believes is to support the U.S.’s critical infrastructure in industries like energy, transportation, and manufacturing. He stated that operating in bands such as the L band is critical for Ligado to fulfill this role.

“Our vision is to bring the power of a 5G commercial network to bear on private industries.”

Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Broadband Breakfast for Lunch takes place at 11:30 a.m. on the second Wednesday of every month at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, 707 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006. You can watch the September 8, 2021, on this page, or sign up for the current Live Online event.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021, 12 Noon ET — A Conversation with Ligado President and CEO Doug Smith and Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steven K. Berry

Deployment of 5G and next-generation technologies promises tremendous opportunities for consumers across the country, particularly in rural areas. It means major advancements for American businesses, too – especially in energy and manufacturing that are seeking to modernize and digitize their operations.

With the Federal Communications Commission’s unanimous approval, in April 2020, of Ligado Networks’ application to facilitate 5G and Internet of Things services, Ligado has been a company on the move. It has recently announced business deals with Mavenir, Nokia, Rakuten and Saankhya Labs. And, Ligado says, its mobile network offerings for critical infrastructure provides another option for entities in need of 5G services. Join Ligado President and CEO Doug Smith and Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steven K. Berry, in conversation with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, for this special Broadband Breakfast Club for Lunch event.

Panelists:

  • Doug Smith, President and CEO, Ligado Networks
  • Steven K. Berry, President and CEO, Competitive Carriers Association
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

  • Doug Smith is President and CEO of Ligado Networks and is responsible for directing the vision of the company and managing every aspect of its day-to-day operations. He leads efforts to utilize its state-of-the-art communications assets in operating a network solutions firm designed to extend coverage, increase capacity, and accelerate the delivery of next-generation technology for America’s wireless and critical infrastructure industries. With more than 25 years of domestic and international telecom and wireless industry experience, Doug has engineered, built, and launched nationwide networks for GTE, Nextel, Sprint Nextel, and Clearwire.
  • Drew Clark (moderator), 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.
  • Steven K. Berry is President and CEO of Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) the nation’s leading association for competitive wireless providers serving rural, regional and nationwide markets in the United States. A seasoned lawyer who worked for Congress (House and Senate), the Executive Branch and as a partner at Holland & Knight law firm, Berry has held positions as the Senior Vice President of Government Relations for three associations, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the CTIA-The Wireless Association, and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

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.

As a child of American parents working abroad, Reporter Ben Kahn was raised as a third culture kid, growing up in five different countries, including the U.S.. He is a recent graduate of the University of Baltimore, where he majored in Policy, Politics, and International Affairs. He enjoys learning about foreign languages and cultures and can now speak poorly in more than one language.

Universal Service

Advocates Call for Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

Letter cites Carol Mattey report, which recommends broadening the base.

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Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, November 29, 2021 – A broad swath of organizations on Monday is calling for policymakers in Washington to reform and stabilize the Universal Service Fund by broadening its funding base to include broadband revenues.

The Universal Service Fund, which supplies the nation’s low-income and rural and remote communities with basic telecommunications services, currently relies on voice service revenues, which has been a dwindling for years. Debate has emerged about how the fund can be stabilized, with some asking for the money to come from a congressional budget item and others asking for it to come from broadband revenues.

The latter is being recommended by over 254 organizations, including public interest groups, anchor institutions, trade associations and broadband service providers, in a Monday call to action letter to policymakers in Washington. The letter cites a September report by Carol Mattey, a former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission, which said broadband revenues should be incorporated into the USF base of money to draw upon.

“Unfortunately, this universal service system is in danger of collapse because the mechanism that funds it has not been updated since it was adopted nearly 25 years ago,” the letter said. The USF program is a relic from 1997 and a product of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The letter features organizations including Public Knowledge, the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition, Gigabit Libraries Network, California Emerging Technology Fund, and a number of telecoms and telecom associations and anchor institutions from over a dozen states.

The contribution percent – the percent providers must pay of their voice revenues – has reached an all-time high in the second quarter this year, at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that. Mattey and the signatories, however, warn that the contribution could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years, as the fund operates at around $10 billion annually.

Citing the Mattey report, the letter suggests that including broadband revenues into the fund would reduce the USF fee to less than 4 percent, adding it would not stunt broadband adoption or retention, as fees are often passed down to customers.

“Our recommendation would reduce regulatory uncertainty, would better reflect evolving uses of services, would be straightforward to administer, and would be more equitable and nondiscriminatory for residential and business consumers than the current system,” the letter said.

“Moreover, the Federal Communications Commission could make this change under its existing authority without requiring new legislation,” the letter added, as Mattey and Greg Guice, Public Knowledge director of government affairs, said at a conference recently.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested earlier this year that Big Tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook should contribute to the fund because they benefit from broadband services. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called the idea “intriguing,” while FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington also raised the idea at an event in September.

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Universal Service

Experts Urge FCC Unilaterally Broaden Revenue Base of Universal Service Fund

Consultants say the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to do so.

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Carol Mattey and Greg Guice at INCOMPAS event on October 25.

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2021 – Telecommunications experts are recommending that the Federal Communications Commission unilaterally expand the revenue base of the Universal Service Fund to include broadband revenues, rather than waiting on Congress to do so.

Advocates such as Public Knowledge Director of Government Affairs Greg Guice cite congressional infighting over the bipartisan infrastructure bill as an example of inefficiency in the legislature that would stall the passage of urgent reform for the USF, a fund that helps deliver basic telecommunications services to low-income Americans and those in remote regions.

Telecommunications policy experts said at the INCOMPAS Show in Las Vegas October 25, on which Guice was a panelist, that it is essential that the USF force broadband revenues into the pool of funds, as the fund’s overreliance on voice revenues – even as those revenues decline – is putting a strain on the programs.

Guice and Carol Mattey, principal of Mattey Consulting LLC and former deputy chief of the FCC, told Broadband Breakfast Tuesday that the agency has the jurisdiction to broaden the base of the contribution to the USF under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 if it is in the public interest.

“My view is the FCC has the statutory authority to assess broadband internet access service,” said Mattey in an email. “Under existing law — specifically, section 254(d) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 —  the FCC has the statutory authority to require any ‘providers of interstate telecommunications’ to contribute to the universal service fund if the public interest warrants.

“The FCC has classified broadband internet access service as an information service,” she added. “Under the ’96 Act, the definition of an information service is a service that offers the capability to generate, acquire, store, transform, etc. etc. information ‘via telecommunications.’”

Recommendations for reform

Mattey published a report in September that laid out the case for the fund to be expanded to incorporate a broadband range of money sources, including broadband.

And there has been no shortage of recommendations to help the fund prosper. Earlier this year, a panel of experts debated the merits of having Congress wholly assume contributions to the fund from general tax dollars, while others suggested that recommendation would destabilize the fund because it would swing with the political winds. Those people, instead, focused on simply broadening the base to include other sources, including broadband.

More recently, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr penned an op-ed in Newsweek recommending the fund include contributions from Big Tech because that industry benefits from broadband. It was a suggestion that FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called “intriguing.”

But while Guice and Mattey argue for the FCC to step in and make changes unilaterally, in a one-on-one interview with the Internet Innovation Alliance in September, FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington – in pontificating about Carr’s recommendation for Big Tech contributions – said he didn’t want to get ahead of Congress on the matter, suggesting a wait and see approach.

USF in need of change

Over the last two decades, the USF has seen the revenues subject to its assessment decline by 63%. This money goes to support four main programs: high cost support for rural areas, Lifeline for low income areas, the E-rate program for schools and libraries as well as a rural healthcare support program.

This year, the contribution percentage relative to revenues hit an all time high.

The panel at the INCOMPAS show pinpointed the major factor behind declining USF revenues as decreases in mobile service revenues due to providers setting lower mobile rates. These decreases come despite continual increases in communications revenues overall.

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Funding

FCC Announces $163 Million in Second Round of Approved RDOF Funding

The agency is reevaluating winning bids after asking providers to ensure census blocks aren’t already served.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, October 7, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday another approved round of funding from the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

The $163 million in approved money will go to 42 providers who will drive fiber to the home for gigabit services covering 65,000 locations in 21 states over the next ten years, the FCC said Thursday.

“More help is on the way to households without broadband,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release Thursday. “This is an important program for getting more Americans connected to high-speed internet, and we are continuing careful oversight of this process to ensure that providers meet their obligations to deploy in areas that need it.”

The FCC in July asked that providers conduct an assessment in areas for which they won money from the fund in December, because complaints emerged that the approved areas were already served with adequate connectivity.

The commission said 85 bidders chose not to pursue their bids in 5,089 census blocks because those areas were either served or could be wasted. Some attributed their enlightenment to updated FCC maps based on Form 477 data, an often criticized form of data collection that is reliant on service provider data.

The last round of approved money was last month, when the FCC approved a further 13 bidders.

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