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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.

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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.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Funding

President Biden Signs Infrastructure Bill at White House, Touting Better Broadband

President Biden celebrated $65 billion for broadband deployment.

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President Biden signs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on Monday.

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2021 – President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law, securing $65 billion for broadband deployment.

Biden declared that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would connect all Americans to the internet.

The legislation includes $65 billion in funding to “make high-speed Internet affordable and available everywhere, everywhere in America — urban suburban, rural — and create jobs laying down those broadband lines,” he said. “No parent should have to sit in a parking lot of a fast food restaurant again just so their child can use the internet to do their homework,” Biden declared. “That’s over.”

Biden said the fundamental need for high-speed internet everywhere in America became clear over the past year. Comparing to internet access to utilities “as essential or water or electricity,” Biden said that remote learning during the pandemic highlighted the urgency for connecting all Americans.

“Is this not a great day to sign a bill?” said Denita Williams, an optical fiber maker in Wilmington, North Carolina who opened the event by highlighting that investments in infrastructure supports workers like her.

“One of the most exciting parts about this bill is the $65 billion upgrade to expand broadband in communities across the country,” she said. “Communities like mine, in rural north Carolina. This is a not just an investment in broadband. This bill will help everyone have access to the internet to teach their children, run their businesses, and help them run their farms.”

Biden also highlighted green energy technologies

The President also highlighted the law’s provisions that would increase the manufacturing and export of clean energy technologies. “It’s going to make it possible for Americans to get off the sidelines and into the game of manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, batteries to store energy and power for electric vehicles, including electric school buses, which means millions of children will no longer inhale the dangerous diesel fumes at comes out of the buses.”

The cold and wind did not keep President Biden and his top advisors from gathering on the South Lawn of the White House. Governors and mayors from around the country attended. So did many equity advocates, such as Rev. Al Sharpton.

Additionally, more than a dozen Teamsters, journeymen, and other union workers attended the signing.

The crowd was electric. They cheered as Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivered their remarks.

They lauded the legislation as “historic” and described it as “once in a generation.” The Democrats at the event promised Americans that the infrastructure bill was only the first step to “build back better.”

“We will keep working with you, Mr. President, to build on today’s success by passing the rest of your ‘Build back Better’ agenda in the weeks ahead, so we can keep our promises to help families achieve the American Dream,” said Schumer, “This is a great day for America.”

“Our work is already underway, and we’re eager to engage with stakeholders in every state, territory, tribe, and community to ensure these programs succeed,” said Evelyn Remaley, acting assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information and the National Telecommunications and Information administrator.”Under the leadership of President Biden and Secretary [Gina] Raimondo, we now have the resources we need to close the digital divide and make America more connected, more competitive, and more equitable than ever before.”

Ben Kahn, a Reporter for Broadband Breakfast, contributed to this report.

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Funding

Bigger Investment Needed for Next Generation 9-1-1 Services, Experts Say

Former head of NTIA said it could cost $12 billion.

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David Redl, CEO of consulting group Salt Point Strategies and former head of NTIA

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2021–– Experts at a Federal Communications Bar Association event earlier this month said the current funding allocation for next-generation 911 services is inadequate.

Currently, under the Joe Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act, the new 911 services – which will allow people to share videos, images and texts with 911 call centers – is allocated $500 million.

“It’s not enough to fully fund 911,” David Redl, CEO of consulting group Salt Point Strategies, said on the FCBA’s “What Comes Next in 911” panel on November 4. Redl was formerly the head of the Commerce Department’s telecom agency National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Redl said the number could be “about 12 billion.” For Redl, the challenge is to address the funding gap for NG911 “when there’s skepticism in Washington and the [Federal Communications Commission and] when states have different ideas about the best way to allocate funding and best technology to use.”

Dan Henry, director of government affairs at the National Emergency Number Association, agreed.

While Henry said he’s excited about the national-level interoperability tools for call centers that will allow the ability to transfer emergency calls across states with the call’s incident file intact, the failure to get sufficient funding for NG911 puts health and safety at risk. “We’re not near what we need to get [NG911] across the finish line,” he said.

The technology to deploy NG911 is ready, added Chandy Ghosh, chief operating officer and general manager of emergency services at communications company Inteliquent. “It’s not a tech issue,” she said. Wireless clients have been testing NG911 with successful results.

Stakeholders need to communicate with government

Chris Moore, principal at consulting firm Brooks Bawden Moore, said a federal investment is required to deploy NG911. He suggested that industry stakeholders should convene to tell government what they need.

“For now we’ll get what we get, we’re going to continue to push for more funding, but it’s not going to be this round,” he said.

On October 26, the National Association of State 911 Administrators Association asked the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to assist with the implementation of NG911 by clarifying the agency’s authority to regulate the delivery of 911 services through internet protocol-based emergency networks and shift cost-bearing to service providers.

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Funding

Another $700 Million for 26 States Through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

Over 400,000 locations across the U.S. will get broadband in this funding wave.

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Photo by John Staley from NextTV

WASHINGTON, November 12, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday that it will authorize $709,060,159 for 26 states through its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

These are disbursements of the $9.2 billion that were announced in round one of the RDOF reverse auction that took place in the fall of 2020.

The rural fund supports new broadband deployment efforts for 50 broadband providers in 400,000 locations across the U.S. Much of the funding will go to nonprofit rural electric cooperatives to deploy broadband in their service areas.

But others awarded funding under the auction have already defaulted on coverage that they said they would provide as part of their winning bids.

The 26 states ready to receive Wednesday’s funding include Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that the announcement “highlights the agency’s commitment to supporting even more opportunities to connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, reliable broadband service while doing our due diligence to ensure the applicants can deliver to these unserved communities as promised.”

The Commission’s announcement comes after the FCC launched the second round of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program on Tuesday, granting $42.5 million for health care providers. This telehealth program and exceeds the FCC’s $150 million goal by reaching $166.13 million for telehealth funding.

These funding programs provide reimbursements for telecommunication and information services and connected devices the providers have purchased to continue their telehealth services. The Commission also announced $421 million on Monday to keep over 10 million students connected across the U.S. as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund.

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