Connect with us

Funding

Industry and Non-Profit Groups Offer Uniformly Positive Views of Broadband Bill’s Passage

Largest single federal investment ever in broadband will enable communities to invest in fiber as critical infrastructure, says industry group.

Published

on

Fiber Broadband Association CEO Gary Bolton

WASHINGTON, November 6, 2021- Industry groups cheered by the House’s passage of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation and offered uniformly positive reactions in statements issued on Saturday morning and early afternoon.

Amid $1.2 trillion of spending in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, H.R. 3684 allocates $43 billion for broadband infrastructure, and an addition $23 billion for projects and funding bearing upon digital inclusion and broadband’s impact.

“This is the largest single federal investment in broadband, and it will enable communities across the country to invest in fiber as their critical infrastructure, delivering jobs, economic development, online education, remote healthcare, public safety, smart grid modernization and a path to future services, such as 5G,” said Gary Bolton, CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “This investment will not only greatly improve nearly every aspect of our lives today but will help ensure digital equity for generations to come.”

Jonathan Spalter, CEO of US Telecom, highlighted the fact that the $65 billion in funding doesn’t come in in a vacuum.

“If you boil it down, this plan is actually the federal government (working with states) smartly leveraging nearly two trillion dollars, relentless innovation, expertise, and the sweat equity of broadband providers in every corner of the country over the past 25 years,” said Spalter.

He said the plan highlighted the importance of private-sector investment in broadband deployment. The model — “with targeted public support in unserved or hard to reach communities – is the key to achieving 100 percent connectivity,” he said.

Similarly, cable association CEO Matt Polka praised the way the bill “targets deployment of funding in a technologically neutral way to where it is most needed — to unserved and underserved areas — with a robust challenge process to limit overbuilding.” He also praised the funding for low-income connectivity.

Wireless Internet Services Provider Association CEO Claude Aiken praised the bill, saying that it “will help community-based and Tribal providers get all Americans online, bridging the stubborn digital divide which thwarts the prosperity and welfare of millions who go without internet access.”

Non-profit groups praise funding, but warn of lower monthly benefit

“As advocates for affordable broadband, we are thrilled to see the $14.2 billion investment to extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit created in the COVID-19 relief bill,” including the bill’s digital equity initiative, said Chris Lewis, CEO of Public Knowledge.

While the measure “makes great first strides in making broadband more available and affordable for millions of consumers across the country,” he said, “the reduction of the low-income broadband subsidy from $50 to $30 is disappointing.”

“Never before have we seen such a meaningful congressional investment in closing the digital divide for people who may already have high-speed internet networks available in their neighborhoods, but who still cannot afford to connect,” said Matt Wood, Free Press Action vice president of policy

“Millions of people in that predicament simply can’t pay the high price to get connected without the kind of robust financial support this bill offers,” he said.

Consumer Reports’ Senior Policy Counsel Jonathan Schwantes highlighted several benefits and attributes championed by the non-profit entity, including:

  • $42.5 billion for broadband infrastructure and the deployment of grants to be distributed to the states and territories with a focus on unserved and underserved markets.
  • Requirement of a low-cost option to be offered by providers who take federal grant money.
  • A consumer broadband label that internet service providers must provide for all service offerings. The broadband label will serve as a standardized, easy-to-read broadband label that will include pricing information, additional fees, promotional discounts and length, and performance information (i.e., expected speeds).
  • $14.2 billion to extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit program that will now be the Affordable Connectivity Program (administered by the FCC).
  • Restrictions on upselling or restricting the use of the benefit to particular service offerings.
  • $2.75 billion over the next five years to fund grants programs to boost digital equity, inclusion, and literacy programs.
  • A call to end the practice of “digital redlining” to provide greater access to high-speed internet for lower-income areas. The Federal Communications Commission is tasked to conduct a rulemaking on this issue in the next two years.

Consumer Reports also highlighted their project “Let’s Broadband Together,” designed to investigate the state of internet access throughout the country.

Funding

Decades-Old Legislation Can Play Supplement to Federal Broadband Infrastructure Money

The Community Reinvestment Act was expanded to include broadband investments in 2016.

Published

on

Photo of Jordana Barton-Garcia (far right)

CLEVELAND, June 27, 2022 – A decades-old piece of legislation can play an important and supplemental role to federal grants for broadband infrastructure, said panelists at the Pew Charitable Trust Broadband Access Summit Wednesday.

The Community Reinvestment Act was passed in 1977 to address redlining – the practice of denying financial services to individuals or groups based on where they are located, often along racial or soci-economic lines. The law encourages banks to make community development loans and investments in low- and moderate-income communities, rural, and tribal communities.

The legislation expanded to include investments in broadband infrastructure in 2016, after broadband was deemed an essential community service, said Jordana Barton-Garcia, principal of the social enterprise at Barton-Garcia Advisors. That means that it could play a key role in filling some of the broadband gaps, she said, as the federal government moves to distribute billions to the states under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

In response to the pandemic, banks can now qualify to receive CRA credit for broadband deployment activities, said Barton-Garcia. Activities include loans, investments, and services that support digital inclusion or affordability programs.

Banks receive CRA credit for investing in community development projects and are reviewed on their CRA performance every three years. Their scores are open to the general public. If the bank receives a negative rating, it may prevent the bank from opening new branches and the bank will be expected to correct the rating.

Currently, the Federal Reserve is seeking comments on a joint agency proposal to strengthen and modernize CRA regulations.

A report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in 2016 laid the groundwork for broadband to be included under the CRA. “Under the CRA, infrastructure investment includes facilitating the construction, expansion, improvement, maintenance or operation of essential infrastructure…  broadband is now a basic infrastructure needed in all communities.”

The CRA also includes workforce development investments, digital literacy projects, and technical assistance for small businesses.

Continue Reading

Funding

Researching the Impact of Digital Equity Funding Starts With Community Collaboration

Understanding the funding impact will ‘begin with the NTIA’s mandate to work with community partners.’

Published

on

Photo of Fallon Wilson

CLEVELAND, June 23, 2022 – Formulating research questions and making data readily accessible will contribute to the impact of federal and state digital equity funding, said experts speaking at the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Broadband Access Summit Wednesday.

It is essential to “formulate the research questions with communities” so that researchers will understand what is of interest and importance to the residents and local leaders, said Nicole Marwell from the University of Chicago,

Marwell said it is “critical” for researchers to consider how to “ask questions that bring answers that are more relevant for the community partners and then for [researchers] to try and figure out a way to make that interesting for a research audience.”

“We can demystify research,” said Fallon Wilson of the #BlackTechFutures Research Institute, speaking on how researchers can effectively work with community members. When data looks friendly to local leaders, they can go directly to their state broadband offices and advocate for their specific needs in specific areas.

“The best advocates are the people who advocate for themselves,” said Wilson.

Our role as researchers can play is to make data digestible for the non-academic, said Hernan Galperin of the University of Southern California.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration requires states to work with community leaders and partners for the funds distributed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Wilson praised this mandate, saying that understanding the funding impact will “begin with the NTIA’s mandate to work with community partners.”

Continue Reading

Funding

BEAD Program Initiative Should Utilize Analysis of Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment

Analyzing ACP enrollment can help the BEAD program solve the ‘persisting gap between deployment and subscription.’

Published

on

Photo of John Horrigan

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration should utilize adoption data from the Affordable Connectivity Program to maximize the effectiveness of its $42.5-billion infrastructure program, according to a broadband adoption expert.

“If the federal government’s investments in broadband connectivity are to be effective, different programmatic pieces must work together,” said John Horrigan, Benton Senior Fellow and expert on technology adoption and digital inclusion, in a blog post Thursday.

Analyzing the enrollment data of the Federal Communications Commission’s ACP can help the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program — a $42.5 billion fund for infrastructure to be handed to the states — solve the “persisting gap between deployment and subscription” in three ways, said Horrigan.

First, examining ACP enrollment in zip codes can help target which areas within cities are unaware of ACP. Second, understanding where ACP enrollment is over-performing can “launch productive inquiry into models that may be effective – and replicable.” Third, ACP enrollment findings can help structure community outreach initiatives for digital inclusion.

“The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has emphasized that a key goal of BEAD investments in digital equity,” said Horrigan. “State planners will need all the tools they can find to work toward that goal – and analysis of ACP performance is one such tool.”

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending