Connect with us

Funding

Infrastructure Bill Brings New Focus on Decision Making at Community Level

Funneling of infrastructure funds through states differs from Obama-era broadband programs.

Published

on

WASHINGTON, January 24, 2022 – Community broadband advocates say the ability for local governments to decide what can be done with broadband money from the recently-enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the best way to manage federal funds for broadband expansion efforts.

During a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Wednesday, leaders at community broadband advocacy group Institute for Local Self-Reliance said this sets up a local community-based approach to connectivity, bypassing some of the issues with the Federal Communications Commission’s limited broadband maps.

Sean Gonsalves, a senior reporter, editor and researcher at the ILSR, said that local communities are the best source of information on where within their boundaries there are connectivity issues – far surpassing the knowledge of the FCC’s maps.

The infrastructure legislation, which became law in November, will provide a minimum of $100 million to each of the states to use toward broadband expansion. The states that have applied for American Rescue Plan money now have heaps of cash to work with fully connected their boundaries with high-speed internet.

Christopher Mitchell, director of the ILSR, said Wednesday that for many states the law “may solve almost all their rural broadband problems.”

Local approaches may also make it easier to hold accountable officials who do not effectively spend IIJA funds, Mitchell said, adding that was one component of the law that was missing from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark stated that the law’s structure of funneling money through states is noteworthy, as the notion of responsibility for individual states to enforce policy has long been a “conservative talking point.”

The panel noted that like RDOF, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program from Barack Obama’s presidency also differed from the IIJA in that it did not rely on individual states to dispense funds.

Mitchell attributes these differences in the IIJA in part to general trends toward decentralization in policy.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the January 19, 2022, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 12 Noon ET — The Community Broadband Network Approach to Infrastructure Funding

Community broadband networks will play a crucial role in the implementation of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, particularly the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, and the Digital Equity Act. This vital session of Broadband Breakfast Live Online will bring our friends from MuniNetworks.org, the Community Broadband Networks Initiative of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, to discuss the issues, trends and concerns they are following. What open questions remain about the IIJA rules? How do the Treasury Department’s rules on the State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program interact with the IIJA program? What concerns should community networks have about the next stages of federal funding in their states?

Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:

  • DeAnne Cuellar, Community Broadband Outreach Team Lead, ILSR’s Community Broadband Network Initiative
  • Sean Gonsalves, Senior Reporter, Editor and Researcher, ILSR’s Community Broadband Network Initiative
  • Ry Marcattilio-McCracken, Senior Researcher, ILSR’s Community Broadband Network Initiative
  • Christopher Mitchell, Director, ILSR’s Community Broadband Network Initiative
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Please note: Our event on “State Broadband Officials and the Broadband Infrastructure Surge” has been moved to February 16, 2022.

Panelist resources:

DeAnne Cuellar is a tech equity advocate and communications strategist from San Antonio, Texas. She served as Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s digital inclusion appointee to the City of San Antonio’s Innovation & Technology Committee, resulting in several policy and funding priorities to close the digital divide. As a social impact entrepreneur, she co-founded several cross-sector nonprofit initiatives, advocating for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion for historically underrepresented communities.

Sean Gonsalves is a longtime former reporter, columnist, and news editor with the Cape Cod Times. He is also a former nationally syndicated columnist in 22 newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune, Kansas City Star and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Washington Post and the International Herald-Tribune. Sean joined the Institute for Local Self Reliance staff in October 2020 as a senior reporter, editor and researcher for ILSR’s Community Broadband Network Initiative.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken is Senior Researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative. He is interested in the democratizing power of technology, systems engineering, and the history of science, technology, and medicine. Previously, Ry worked as an Adjunct Professor of American History in Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Minnesota. Ry holds a Ph.D. in American History from Oklahoma State University.

Christopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis. Mitchell, a leading national expert on community networks, Internet access, and local broadband policies, built MuniNetworks.org, the comprehensive online clearinghouse of information about local government policies to improve Internet access. Its interactive community broadband network map tracks more than 600 such networks. He also hosts audio and video shows online, including Community Broadband Bits and Connect This!, and Public Knowledge presented Christopher with its Internet Protocol award in 2021, which honors those who have made significant contributions to Internet policy.

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.

Reporter T.J. York received his degree in political science from the University of Southern California. He has experience working for elected officials and in campaign research. He is interested in the effects of politics in the tech sector.

Broadband's Impact

Uncertainty Regarding Affordable Connectivity Fund is Affecting Private Investment

Lack of assurance regarding the ACP funding discourages local governments and providers from investing into the program.

Published

on

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2023 – The uncertainty surrounding the refunding of the Affordable Connectivity Program, which is expected to run out of funds in 2024, has implications for internet service providers, American households, and local governments, said experts at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday. 

Uncertainty surrounding the ACP funds has turned private investment into a risky bidding game, said Blair Levin, senior fellow at think tank Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. The ACP increases the amount of private capital that providers are willing to invest in new developments in low-income communities because it increases the estimated take rate, he said. 

The ACP is currently subsidizing broadband access for more than 17 million Americans with a discount of up to $30 and $75 a month for low-income and tribal households. 

Moreover, ISPs are hesitant to market the program to consumers in a way that would suggest sustainability, as they would face a public relations nightmare if the program were to end abruptly, leaving millions of Americans without internet access, said Levin. 

The lack of assurance regarding the ACP funding discourages states, local governments and providers from investing time and resources into training staff, added Adeyinka Ogunlegan, vice president of government affairs and policy at advocacy nonprofit EducationSuperHighway.  

“Households need assurance now that the money will not disappear,” she continued. There is an urgent need to apply pressure to Congress to ensure communities get the certainty they need, she said. 

The ACP is the lynchpin that connects all other federal funds, added Director of the Capital Projects Fund at the U.S. Treasury, Joseph Wender. If the fund is not replenished by the end of the year, the cascading effect could compromise the effectiveness of other federal broadband infrastructure programs such as the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program and the $10 billion Capital Projects Fund by harming affordability and program take rate. 

Wender added that it is crucial to avoid reaching a critical point where providers need to notify subscribers about the program’s impending end before renewing the project funds. Consequently, relying on the Universal Service Fund reform to fund the program is not feasible within the limited timeframe.  

The USF, funded through a tax on voice service providers, supports four programs that make telephone and broadband services affordable for low-income households, health care providers, and schools and libraries. The fund’s sustainability has been under pressure with voice service revenues declining as more Americans use broadband services. 

The urgency for ACP renewal cannot be overshadowed by conversations about USF reform, said Ogunlegan.  

The ACP program is the “single most important policy issue in telecommunications in terms of impact on the largest number of Americans,” said Levin. 

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023 – Affordable Connectivity Fund (Special Town Hall Edition)

Since being created at the direction of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, the Affordable Connectivity Program has gained significant support across multiple sectors. Smaller internet service providers have said that the ACP provides critical funding for building out networks to rural communities, and digital equity advocates have frequently called the program a key part of closing the digital divide for low-income and minority communities. But the program’s success might contribute to its downfall—experts have warned that at the rate people are subscribing, the fund will soon run out of money. This special “town hall” event will address the Affordable Connectivity Fund and the strong desire from many in the broadband world to see it renewed.

Panelists

  • Blair Levin, Senior Fellow, Brookings Metro
  • Adeyinka Ogunlegan, Vice President, Government Affairs & Policy, EducationSuperHighway
  • Amina Fazlullah, Senior Director of Equity Policy, Common Sense
  • Amol Naik, Senior Vice President, Public and Policy and Community Engagement, Ting Internet
  • Joseph Wender, Director, Capital Projects Fund, U.S. Treasury
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Blair Levin is a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Metro and a policy analyst with New Street Research, an equity research firm focused on telecommunications and technology. Levin has also been involved in a number efforts to broaden broadband’s reach and effectiveness, including serving as the Executive Director of Gig.U: The Next Generation Network Innovation Project, an initiative of three dozen leading research university communities seeking to support educational and economic development by accelerating the deployment of next generation networks, leading the writing of a report for the World Bank and United Nations High Commission on Refugees on broadband for refugees, and most recently, working with the National Urban League to write the Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion. Previously, Levin worked with the Communications & Society Program with the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, following his departure in 2010 from the Federal Communications Commission where he oversaw the development of a National Broadband Plan.

Amina Fazlullah is the Senior Director of Equity Policy in Common Sense‘s D.C. office where she works on a range of issues including expanding affordable access to technology, privacy, platform responsibility, and digital well-being. Prior to joining Common Sense, Amina was a tech policy fellow at Mozilla, where she worked to promote broadband connectivity in underserved communities (tribal, rural, and refugee communities) around the world. She has testified before committees in the U.S. House and Senate on technology issues impacting vulnerable consumers, kids, and families. She has been featured by the press and at conferences on issues related to broadband competition, Section 230, the digital divide, and dark patterns. She has published multiple research reports about the scale, cost, and solutions for addressing the digital divide. She has served on the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee and currently serves as a founding board member of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. Amina has also worked with the Benton Foundation, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, for the Honorable Chief Judge James M. Rosenbaum of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, and at the FCC.

Adeyinka Ogunlegan is the vice president for government affairs and policy at EducationSuperHighway, a national nonprofit with the mission to close the digital divide for the 18 million households that have access to the internet but can’t afford to connect. EducationSuperHighway focuses on America’s most unconnected communities, where more than 25 percent of people don’t have internet. As the leader of the government affairs team, Ogunlegan focuses on developing and executing the nonprofit’s policy strategy while bringing together the right coalition of champions to accomplish ESH’s mission to close the broadband affordability gap. Prior to joining EducationSuperHighway, she spent several years at Comcast where she was responsible for legislative advocacy and building partnerships with community-based organizations to close the digital divide.

Amol Naik is a government affairs executive and public policy lawyer with deep expertise in technology and infrastructure policy developed at senior levels in both the private sector and government. He is SVP of Public Policy and Community Engagement for Ting Internet, where he leads the national team responsible for all of Ting’s public policy advocacy at the federal, state and local levels, as well as evaluating new markets, and subsequently collaborating with communities in the manner required for building citywide fiber to the premises networks.  Amol is a civic leader in Atlanta and his interest in digital inclusion comes from his experience growing up in rural North Carolina, where he saw the devastating impact the digital divide can have on underserved communities of color.

Joseph Wender currently serves as director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund. He previously served for nearly 13 years on Capitol Hill, most recently as Senator Ed Markey’s senior policy adviser, where he led a team covering a wide range of issues including telecommunications and infrastructure. Wender also worked as then-Representative Markey’s legislative director. Prior to working for Markey, he served as counsel for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He received his B.A. from Wesleyan University and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.

Drew Clark (moderator) is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC. He has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

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.

Continue Reading

Funding

Rhode Island Seeks Community Input in Broadband Planning Ahead of Federal Funding

The state is focused on community partnerships as it waits for federal broadband funds later this month.

Published

on

Photo of Rhode Island Governor Daniel J. McKee, one of the speakers, taken from the governor's website

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2023 – Officials at a state broadband conference in Rhode Island last week said that community engagement is the state’s top priority ahead of the allocation of federal funds.

Under the $42.5-billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, each state will receive at least $100 million to expand high-speed broadband access to all Americans. Additional allocations can be awarded based on the number of unserved locations in the area. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will announce the exact amount of funds going to each state by June 30 based on the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband availability maps.

But while the accuracy of the maps has been a focus of many, including states preparing their own versions to challenge the FCC’s, Rhode Island officials said they are focused on other things right now.

Daniela Fairchild, a state commerce department official, highlighted “participatory planning” as the state’s top priority as it prepares for the funding allocation. The state would welcome public perspectives and work in conjunction with local stakeholders to “make real decisions” that meet the need of the community, she continued.

“The FCC maps are an essential data point to our planning process,” added Rhode Island’s Director of Broadband Strategy Brian Thorn. “But they are not the end-all be-all of state broadband planning.”

Rhode Island has launched a broadband initiative to facilitate engagement from residents for broadband implementation, officials said. Ongoing efforts include the publication of a broadband newsletter, statewide internet speed surveys, and in-depth focus groups.

New Shoreham, Rhode Island’s smallest town, also established its own publicly funded broadband infrastructure independent of federal planning.

Rhode Island, along with other states and territories, is required to submit to the NTIA a five-year broadband action plan.

Continue Reading

Funding

National League of Cities Announces Bootcamps to Support Applicants to Federal Infrastructure Programs

The program instructs applicants on best practices to write winning grant applications.

Published

on

Image by PeopleReady

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2023 – Advocacy group National League of Cities is sponsoring a nationwide program designed to advise cities and towns on how to access federal infrastructure funding. 

The Local Infrastructure Hub program is hosting a grant application bootcamp aimed at assisting small- and mid-sized cities and towns in their grant applications. The bootcamp series will begin in June and will focus on the programs funded through the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.  

The camp comes ahead of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s allocation by June 30 of the $42.5 billion from its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

The broadband opportunities bootcamp will introduce cities to the entire ecosystem of federal broadband opportunities and educate them on ways they can engage with the private sector, the NLC said. It will guide them through the process of applying to the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program, it added. 

Participants will be guided through the process of creating an asset map for their community, executing a community engagement strategy, utilizing data to understand problems, aligning applications with broader federal priorities, and writing winning applications through provided templates.  

Mayors and municipal staff across a wide range of specialties are eligible to participate. Participants will have access to subject-matter experts and individualized coaching sessions. The program will connect applicants with their peers applying to the same programs, the NLC said. 

The free bootcamps will last 3 to 4 months and will require several hours of participation each week per team member. Many city leaders tout the program as being highly successful and influential in their grant application process.  

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast News



Broadband Breakfast Research Partner

Trending