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Feds Likely to Maintain Oversight of Infrastructure Bill Fund Disbursement

NTIA is likely to continue to oversee the $42.5 billion for broadband from the IIJA.

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WASHINGTON, December 21, 2021 – At a Broadband Breakfast event earlier this month, the director of the office of minority broadband initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said the agency will maintain oversight of money from the infrastructure bill to communities, rather than giving complete autonomy to states.

Scott Woods also emphasized the need to tailor NTIA approaches to each individual state, as each state possesses vastly different capability for fund disbursement based on existing state programs such as extensive mapping by Georgia’s government. Each state is expected to receive a minimum of $100 million from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which allocates $65 billion to broadband and was signed into law in mid-November.

Woods sat down in conversation with Ready and Broadband Money CEO Jase Wilson and Broadband Breakfast’s editor and publisher Drew Clark for an in-person panel event, which can be rewatched here.

Woods said the NTIA’s localized approach will rely heavily on better broadband maps.

He said that currently, the government needs more information from internet service providers on where they provide service and at what speed. Additionally, he said there is a need for key demographic data in order to create comprehensive broadband maps that will help inform agency policy and investments.

Wilson said that geospatial tools are also central to the work his business does to connect local service providers to funding and resources.

Woods noted that it is not possible for the federal government alone to perform the entire operation of IIJA fund disbursement and that it will rely on partnerships with the private sector, philanthropic organizations, communities as well as state and local governments.

Wilson highlighted how local service providers are more engaged bodies to partner with for service expansion in communities as opposed to larger providers due to the greater financial motivations among smaller providers to increase consumer access.

The NTIA will use the input of partnered stakeholders such as the aforementioned philanthropic organizations and private sector entities to shape a Notice of Funding Opportunity that the agency will release for its Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, said Woods.

The Senate Commerce Committee recently advanced the nomination of President Joe Biden’s pick to head the NTIA, Alan Davidson. If confirmed, Davidson is sure to play a key role in implementation of the IIJA.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the December 8, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 12 Noon ET — Implementation of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act

The passage of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act on November 5, 2021, represents a significant opportunity for the broadband industry. This includes the providers of high-speed internet service as well as those that seek to enhance the deployment of better broadband. But many questions remain about the details of implementing the IIJA on both the federal and the state levels. In this special “Broadband Breakfast for Lunch” IN PERSON and LIVE ONLINE event, we’ll explore the perspective of the lead federal government agency charged with implementing IIJA’s broadband provision, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. We’ll also consider the important role of state broadband officials in the next phase of IIJA implementation.

Join us IN PERSON on Wednesday, December 8, at Broadband Breakfast Club for Lunch!

There are two ways to participate in this event: IN PERSON or LIVE ONLINE. To attend in person, sign up to attend in person through EventbritePlease arrive for lunch at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, 707 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C., by 11:30 a.m. to be seated for lunch. The program will begin promptly at 12 Noon ET.

Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:

  • Scott Woods, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA
  • Jase Wilson, CEO, Ready / Broadband Money
  • Other guests have been invited
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

As a Senior Broadband Program Specialist with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA), Scott Woods serves as the Team Lead for the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program, a new grant program to provide $268 million in direct funding to expand broadband access, connectivity and digital inclusion to eligible Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCUs), Minority-serving Institutions (MSIs) and the anchor communities upon which these institutions serve. Mr. Woods also serves as the principal liaison between the BroadbandUSA program office and key strategic partners and external stakeholder groups, including representatives from state and local governments; broadband service providers; for-profit and non-profit corporations; telecom trade associations; community representatives and organizations, and colleges/universities.

Jase Wilson is co-founder and CEO of Ready / Broadband Money, a software, data and financial services firm devoted to helping local ISPs connect more people to better broadband. He lives in the SF bay area with his wife and their son Wafer, aka WWW.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

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.

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.’

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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.”

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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.’

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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.”

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Funding

States Must Review ISP Capabilities When Awarding Federal Infrastructure Funds

‘[State] decision makers in this program need to be careful about who is the qualified and experienced provider.’

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Photo of Paul Garnett (middle) and Alex Minard (right)

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2022 – States should ensure telecoms trusted with billions in federal infrastructure funds can do the job before giving them the money, according to experts at an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation webinar on Tuesday.

“[State] decision makers in this program need to be careful about who is the qualified and experienced provider and who is going to be able to actually deliver,” said Alex Minard, state legislative counsel at the NCTA, Internet and Television Association.

State broadband offices should look at the ISP’s broadband deployment plans and company track records to determine whether the provider has sufficient capacity to complete the project, said Paul Garnett, CEO of the broadband consulting firm the Vernonburg Group.

An ISP’s customer base and experience in broadband deployment can help states determine whether to invest in the company, added Garnett.

Minard added that ISP’s that provide a matching fund demonstrate their desire to work with the state and follow-through with their commitments.

He added that states must consider the costs of the project in regard to available funds, the likelihood of sign-ups from community members, and who will run the cybersecurity of the network in the long term.

State partnerships with ISP’s have been said to be essential for broadband deployment.

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