WASHINGTON, May 3, 2022 – Apprenticeships can help solve workplace shortages for broadband infrastructure builds, according to witnesses at a Senate workplace subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.
Technical and worker shortages have been flagged by agency and government officials, including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, as a key area for broadband builds, with money portioned out for it under the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.
In arguing that apprenticeships are widely underutilized in the United States, panelists at the hearing cited a lack of incentives for public schools to push alternatives to a regular four-year college degree. To combat this, Dan Hendricks, director of the Denver Joint Electrical Apprenticeship, advised visiting with school counselors and educating them on available opportunities and benefits from an apprenticeship program.
According to Hendricks, apprenticeship programs place students in the workforce with an average salary of $80,000. Within four years, many advance to a salary of $100,000. Most will graduate from the program with little to no student debt, he argued.
Additionally, Brent Gillum, CEO of telco LightStream, suggested creating “workforce development opportunities in secondary and post-secondary schools by leveraging existing curriculum in S.T.E.M. programs, apprenticeships and online-learning.”
Workplace demand will continue to increase as federal grant funds circulate through state systems. Brookings Researchers in 2021 found that 160,000 broadband jobs would be created by the broadband infrastructure bill.
Nicole Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation, recommended working with community colleges to provide career pathways directly into these fields and providing digital service cores for new entrance as a precursor to the apprenticeship programs, providing experiential learning at a local level.
It was proposed to train students where they live with already-developed remote training models. Turner Lee expressed optimism that local apprenticeship training will help bridge the digital divide as low-income persons choose more affordable schooling options.
In Ohio for example, the government announced new technical programs in certain colleges to train the workforce for broadband expansion projects.
Starlink Should Prevail in RDOF Challenge, Says Tech Think Tank
October 3, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to revoke Starlink’s $885 million award was “arbitrary” and “capricious,” said TechFreedom in comments filed with the Commission last week.
Starlink secured the award from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund in December 2020, but the agency changed course and pulled the plug on the grant last August, claiming the company’s satellite technology is too new and unreliable to meet RDOF’s requirements. Starlink appealed the decision in September.
In its filed comments, TechFreedom, a think tank “dedicated to promoting the progress of technology that improves the human condition,” argued that the FCC overstated the flaws of Starlink’s network. Starlink’s growing constellation of satellites – already numbering in the thousands – is “revolutionary,” and network performance will rapidly improve as more satellites are launched, the comments said.
In response to FCC reservations about lagging upload speeds, the TechFreedom argued that Starlink will reach the required service speeds in the remaining three years before the Commission’s official deadline.
“How can the FCC pull all funding for Starlink based on current speed tests for a system that is not yet fully built, and for which deployment, speed, and latency milestones don’t apply for several more years,” the think tank wrote.
TechFreedom also argued that Starlink’s is the only technology able to reach some of the hardest-to-serve areas in America: “When the dust settles on this round of broadband deployment in a few years, and the new maps still show many Americans with no access to high-speed broadband, there will be no one to blame but this Commission.”
The revocation of Starlink’s grant was met with significant pushback from inside the Commission as well. In August, Commissioner Brandan Carr blasted the decision, saying, “The FCC’s decision offers no reasoned basis for determining that Starlink was incapable of meeting its regulatory obligations.”
Commissioner Nathan Simington outright endorsed Starlink’s challenge. “I am troubled that the decision to rescind SpaceX’s RDOF award applied standards that were not in our RDOF rules, were never approved by the Commission, and in fact made their first appearance in this drastic action,” he said.
Wireless Internet Service Providers to Connect More Fiber Points as Bandwidth Consumption Increases
‘The only way to get that density is to get fiber out there. That allows you to get more subs with your wireless.’
LAS VEGAS, October 6, 2022 – By employing more fiber points, wireless internet service providers can improve network performance and innovation, industry players at the WISPAPALOOZA conference told Broadband Breakfast.
Jay Anderson, chief technology officer of FiberLight, which has built fiber networks in several states, including Texas, Florida, and Virginia, told this publication as wireless internet service providers get more subscribers online, the existing connections to the fiber backbone can get congested without more densification of fiber points.
“The only way to get that density is to get fiber out there, and that allows you to get more subs with your wireless,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he expects WISPs to adopt a “hybrid architecture” moving forward. FiberLight’s Texan WISP partners have grown “leaps and bounds,” he said. “They’re using our infrastructure…to get that capacity out there…our job is to get as much of it out there, [at as high a] bandwidth as possible,” he added.
Mike Rowell, senior vice president of operations for Hilliary Communications, related some of his own professional experience with fiber to Broadband Breakfast. Hilliary provides internet, telephone, and television service across Texas and Oklahoma.
“We can see fiber helping us out tremendously in some areas getting us to a wireless access point,” Rowell said, explaining that a single fiber deployment can replace a less-reliable, multi-device connection to a hard-to-serve area. He said this strategy enabled his company to offer higher internet speeds and reach new customers.
Rowell has worked in telecommunications for four decades. He said he has seen once-prohibitive costs for fiber-installation machinery plummet, which makes fiber a far more viable option than it previously was.
“Fiber – from just…two years ago – was totally different than today,” he said. “You can [now] have fiber splicers that can do a really, really nice job for under $3,000.”
Rowell also emphasized the importance of foresight and innovative business planning. “We never thought we’d be selling one-gig, and here we are selling it,” he said. “It’s going to be the same thing: We don’t think we’re going to be selling 10-gig, but we’re going to.”
Garland McCoy: How Your State Can Defend Its Broadband Maps for Maximum Funds
Crowdsourced and bulk data are subject to a challenge process that has successfully eliminated crowdsourced data in the past.
On September 15, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Data Task Force issued a public notice on “Specifications for Bulk Fixed Availability Challenge and Crowdsource Data.”
The notice provided guidance for filing bulk challenges, and bulk crowdsource data, to fixed broadband availability data that will be published later this year by the FCC as part of its new Broadband Data Collection. According to the notice, “individuals and entities, including consumers, state, local, and Tribal governmental entities, and service providers,” can submit challenges to the BDC fixed broadband availability data for single locations, as well as “bulk” challenges with respect to multiple locations.
Historically, Internet Service Providers have effectively used the FCC’s challenge process to disqualify the vast majority of disputes brought forward by states, counties, and other complainants regarding FCC’s broadband maps. And frankly, this will be the case again unless states take a new tack to validate their own data in such a way that will stand up to ISP challenges. Given the enormity of the federal broadband funds available to states this time around, the stakes could not be higher; that is, a single state could forgo hundreds of millions of dollars of federal broadband funds due to insufficient preparation to challenge-proof its data.
Here are two observations to start: 1) The ISPs are correct in challenging the data if the data is corrupted or incapable of being validated, and therefore should be disqualified. 2) the FCC and the ISPs must now be seen as embracing the new “crowdsourcing” challenge process since the Broadband Data Act of 2020 was very specific in requiring that the FCC’s new data gathering methodology include third-party crowdsourced data. That said, third-party “crowdsourced” and “bulk” data are subject to the same challenge process that has successfully eliminated individual and crowdsourced data in the past.
Three ways ISPs successfully challenge and disqualify third-party data
Alone, or in combination, the following three scenarios have succeeded year after year in ensuring that third-party data, crowdsourced or otherwise, has not made it past the challenge process and onto the FCC’s approved maps.
- Was the speed test launched from a device wirelessly? Modern modems set up a Wireless Area Network around the premises over the one or two Wi-Fi channels allocated. Almost all devices are now connected wirelessly to the modem. A wireless launch of a speed test, e.g., from your laptop or smart phone, therefore affects/corrupts the network speed test and disqualifies the data.
- Was the on-premises modem “still” when the speed test was taken? By “still” the ISP is referring to the modem’s management of data coming from any device remotely or over cable, ethernet connection, during the time of the test. For example, if a family member is working on their laptop, e.g., doing homework, the modem’s management of the data from the laptop will affect a speed test taken during that time. This will disqualify the speed test data.
- Was the crowdsourced and or bulk data drawn exclusively from the ISP’s premium service customers? The FCC stipulates that the speed testing data must be drawn from an ISP’s customers who have purchased the service provider’s best available service package. A customer might not need or be able to afford FCC’s “broadband” minimum service of 25/3 mbps, and thus would purchase a less expensive, slower service package offered by the ISP. For purposes of accurate speed testing, the ISP should not be penalized for offering true broadband-speed service that is passed over by a customer seeking a cheaper service.
PAgCASA, the Precision Ag Connectivity & Accuracy Stakeholder Alliance, is a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to ensure broadband map accuracy, connectivity, and rural prosperity, stands ready to help states get their full share of federal broadband funds and successfully defend against challenges.
PAgCASA’s on-premises, cybersecure, network monitoring methodology – which deploys the same network monitoring devices the major ISPs use, on wired/ethernet-connected customer modems, from a volunteer pool of an ISP’s premium service customers selected using standardized random sampling methods – will, in fact, address all the challenge issues above and generate data ready for potential litigation.
As noted in another recent article on Broadband Breakfast, states like Georgia and North Carolina are finding significantly fewer served locations based on their latest state broadband data compared to FCC’s most recent Form 477 data. We expect to see similar differences across the country as states and the FCC bring forward their latest respective data.
Consider this: a ten percent delta between the FCC and state maps translates into a staggering $4 billion based on an overall federal broadband infrastructure spend of $40 billion – needed funds that will not make their way to genuinely unserved or underserved communities across the country.
Our nation can and must do better.
Garland T. McCoy, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Precision Ag Connectivity and Accuracy Stakeholder Alliance, is a long-time non-profit veteran in the fields of technology and telecommunication policy having served as Founder and CEO of the Technology Education Institute & Technology Policy Institute. Garland was recently an adjunct professor at Syracuse University’s iSchool, teaching information policy and decision making. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to email@example.com. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
- Starlink Should Prevail in RDOF Challenge, Says Tech Think Tank
- ECF Awards of $96 Million, Minority Communities, Charter and Digital Education
- Wireless Internet Service Providers to Connect More Fiber Points as Bandwidth Consumption Increases
- Garland McCoy: How Your State Can Defend Its Broadband Maps for Maximum Funds
- High Demand for Middle Mile Grants, Local Concerns in FCC Process, Musk Agrees to Buy Twitter Again
- Paul Atkinson: Why Fiber Trumps Satellite When Bridging the Digital Divide
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