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Broadband's Impact

Craig Settles Talks Telehealth, FCC Mapping Issues on States, Broadband’s Impact on Critical Infrastructure

Craig Settles talks about the need for telehealth and ubiquitous broadband in a recent interview.

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Craig Settles, author of broadband deployment guide Building the Gigabit City

November 29, 2021 – Craig Settles, market researcher and author of broadband deployment guide Building the Gigabit City, spoke with Broadband Breakfast Deputy Editor Sarah Stirland in a Sunday profile that emphasized the need for communities to prioritize telehealth in broadband planning.

The profile in Broadband.Money, a broadband grant funding service that allows ISPs and community networks to discover, apply, and win broadband grants, discusses how the pandemic has changed stakeholder interest in broadband’s role in telehealth. Before COVID-19, “[n]o one would talk about medical reminders, or remote sensors to help children keep track of their elderly parents,” he said in the Sunday profile. The new national focus on telemedicine offers a new opportunity to save lives by improving connectivity speed and delivering critical information to health professionals.

Now, Settles works with stakeholders to provide broadband strategies that match local communities’ lifestyle and business needs. Settles’ work combines community-empowerment and broadband deployment strategies to deliver telehealth services to places in need.

“Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do,” Settles said. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Settles will answer questions about broadband needs analysis and future broadband deployment in an Ask-Me-Anything session with Broadband.Money on Friday, December 3rd, at 2:30 p.m. ET. Settles’ work and analyses of when telehealth services makes sense can be found at his web site.

FCC mapping issues threaten broadband deployment

States and cities are unsure of where to put government broadband money because the maps are inaccurate, according to a Politico report Monday.

The lack of accurate nationwide maps that the Federal Communications Commission is working on improving is also threatening the efficient use of the $42 billion in broadband money going to states as a result of new infrastructure legislation signed into law two weeks ago.

Although the government won’t start distributing funds from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act for at least another year, Politico reports, citing BroadbandNow data, that states and cities are already allocating $10 billion in federal relief without confidence in their ability to identify their communities’ dead zones.

The FCC’s maps, compiled from telecommunications providers, have drawn longstanding criticism from industry stakeholders, members of Congress, and the FCC itself because of its overreliance on the Form 477 method, which took data from internet service providers. Now, the problem has reached a new inflection point as states try to find coverage gaps — and even as the agency seeks other methods, including crowdfunded data, for better mapping.

Congress required that better maps should be used before the infrastructure money is spent, which could help states accurately fund the neediest areas when the $65 billion broadband package is made available.

In the meantime, towns and counties that need broadband funding most urgently will have to wait while states with more accurate data can better target funding. In Ohio’s Athens County, a speed test data from measurement company Ookla showed that at least 340,000 households in eastern Ohio had no home broadband, while the FCC estimated that, at most, 328,000 households in the entire state have connections too slow to fit its definition of broadband.

Cisco says broadband deployment will improve hard infrastructure

Cisco says that by adding broadband to the nation’s “critical infrastructure,” the United States will modernize our hard infrastructure.

More reliable connectivity will support our nation’s roads, bridges, and waterways, the company wrote to MarketScreener on Monday.

Cisco says digital networks, while using broadband connections, can “expand beyond broadband to support other forms of critical infrastructure.” Dubbed Operational Technology networks, or OT networks, digital systems will be able to monitor the nation’s hard infrastructure, like monitoring a switch to trigger a shutdown if a certain value in a water system is exceeded. Community safety commissions could also start monitoring bridges for unusual stresses, speeding awareness, and more efficient responding to maintenance needs. Further, public safety services could remotely change red-yellow-green light switches and alter traffic signals for emergency vehicles.

The company recommended that technology companies should leverage funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to secure and use OT networks. “Doing so can help drive greater efficiencies, faster response times and potential costs savings. It can also create more efficient opportunities as future technologies come online,” Cisco said. “By expanding beyond broadband to deliver OT networks with automation, machine learning and other innovative services (like those that support autonomous vehicles), we can build a more inclusive infrastructure that benefits everyone.”

Reporter Justin Perkins is graduate of Howard University School of Law, with a focus on telecommunications and technology. He has in-house experience at the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast and NBC. He brings curiosity and insight to broadband news.

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion Leaders a Critical Step to Closing Digital Divide: National League of Cities

The National League of Cities said government leaders need to have ‘multiple points of engagement’ with communities.

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Lena Geraghty, National League of Cities director of urban innovation

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022 – To understand the digital divide, cities need to include digital equity leaders in their broadband needs assessment programs, the National League of Cities said at an event on community connectivity challenges Wednesday.

A broadband needs assessment would allow city leaders to explore the extent of the digital divide in their communities, said Lena Geraghty, the National League of Cities’ director of urban innovation.

“[A needs assessment] enable city leaders to dig into who’s being excluded, what’s currently available in your city, and what solutions city leaders can use” to close the digital divide, she said.

“The community is going to know best about where access exists, where gaps exist, and the needs that will make connectivity better,” Geraghty said. To get the best picture of a community’s need, stakeholders must find and include the community’s digital equity leaders in the data-gathering process, she added.

“These could be people that are knowledgeable about digital equity or people that are experiencing the digital divide,” she said. “Think really broadly about what it means to be a leader and the type of information these folks can bring to bear in solving the digital divide in your communities.”

Geraghty said it may be useful to formalize the leaders’ work by creating a broadband working group or ad hoc committee led by the city’s government. “Giving some roles and responsibilities can help everyone move in the same in direction, there’s agreement, and really clear goals and outcomes.”

Geraghty added that it’s important for government leaders to establish multiple points of engagement for the community. “It’s not enough to gather data or information from people once,” she said. “The state of access to the internet and devices is always changing,” so leaders should create multiple touch points for community input.

The National League of Cities released its Digital Equity Playbook for cities in December, walking readers through how they can promote digital equity in their cities. The playbook has a four-step process on how to get started with digital equity.

By walking readers through the process of connecting with the community, evaluating the connectivity landscape, gathering foundational information and reporting on findings, city leaders will be prepared to target broadband funding to unserved and underserved areas in their communities.

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Environment

FCC Commissioner Starks Says Commission Looking into Impact of Broadband, 5G on Environment

Starks sat down to discuss the promise of smart grid technology for the environment.

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FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2022 – Former and current leaders within the Federal Communications Commission agreed Thursday that it is important to make sure the FCC’s broadband efforts support the nation’s goals for the environment.

On Thursday, during a Cooley law firm fireside chat event, Robert McDowell, a former FCC director, and current FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks discussed how broadband expansion and next-generation 5G mobile networks will affect the environment.

Starks said that the commission is currently focusing on answering that exact question and are evaluating the current attempts to protect the environment, as more money is expected from the federal government and as broadband infrastructure expands. That includes putting more fiber into the ground and erecting more cell towers, but also allowing for a broadband-enabled smart grid system that will make automated decisions on energy allocation.

Smart grid systems, for example, provide real-time monitoring of the energy used in the electrical system. These systems can help to reduce consumption and carbon emissions, Starks said, by rerouting excess power and addressing power outages instantaneously in the most efficient and environmentally friendly manner. The smart grid systems will monitor “broadband systems in the 900 MHz band,” said Starks.

Starks also noted the Senate’s “Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation” initiative, which would set apart $500 million for cities across America so they can begin working on ways to lower carbon emissions.

FCC also focused on digital discrimination

Starks said the commission is also focusing on “making sure that there is no digital discrimination on income level, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin,” and that it all comes down to funding and who needs the money.

He stated that the first step is to finalize the maps and data that have been collected so funding can be targeted to the areas and people that need it the most. Many have remarked that the $65 billion allocated to broadband from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will not be divvied out until adequate maps are put in place.

Starks noted that broadband subsidy program Lifeline, although fundamental to some people’s lives, is significantly underutilized. Starks stated that participation rates hover around 20 percent, which led the FCC to explore other options while attempting to make Lifeline more effective. For example, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – which provides monthly broadband subsidies – has been replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program, a long-term and revised edition of the pandemic-era program.

Starks and McDowell also stated their support for the confirmation by the Senate of Alan Davidson as the permanent head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and expressed that Davidson will be a key player in these efforts.

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Broadband's Impact

CES 2022: Public-Private Partnerships Key to Building Smart Cities, Tech leaders Say

Public-private partnerships will increase the community benefit of infrastructure projects, leaders at Qualcomm and Verizon said.

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Panelists on the “Smart Cities and Public-Private Partnerships” CES session on Friday.

LAS VEGAS, January 12, 2022––Telecommunications industry leaders said Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show that public-private partnerships will pave the way to realizing the future of smart cities.

Raymond Bauer, director of the domain specialist group that connects governments to Verizon’s telecommunications services, said the government needs private partners to improve its infrastructure efforts.

Referencing the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Bauer said governments should look forward to partnering with private technology companies to improve upcoming infrastructure projects.

“There’s a once in a lifetime opportunity from IIJA,” Bauer said. “We should find common ways to work in a way we haven’t in the past. There are certain goals and use cases to leverage the infrastructure we have,” he said.

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan legislation funds physical and digital infrastructure projects, including $65 billion for the expansion of broadband across the country.

Bauer said communities have a chance to monetize the services Verizon offers to communities if Verizon builds infrastructure for broadband access in underserved areas. “By bridging the digital divide, underserved communities get the services they need,” he added.

Ashok Tipirneni, head of smart cities and connected spaces at Qualcomm, said that cities should be thinking about how technology can improve much-needed infrastructure projects.

“Cities are growing faster than available utility,” he said, citing global issues of housing, water, and equity for vulnerable populations. “How do we ensure access for all citizens? And how can cities be in lock step with new technology, whatever it is?” he asked.

Qualcomm’s Smart Cities Accelerator Program delivers internet of things ecosystem products and services to member cities and local governments.

“New Orleans, Miami, and Los Angeles has local governments asking how they can do better,” he said. “They offer opportunities for partnerships that wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago.”

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