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Infrastructure

States Should Subsidize Pole Replacement Costs, Charter Says

The issue of pole attachment costs to place broadband equipment is being examined by the FCC.

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Screenshot of Marva Johnson by Teralyn Whipple

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 – Utility pole replacement funds should be sponsored by states to alleviate concern on the part of service providers often responsible to bear such costs, said an executive for Charter Communications.

Marva Johnson, spectrum group vice president for cable company Charter, was speaking at a Federal Communications Bar Association event Monday, which heard that utility poles are essential for broadband deployment. These poles, lined over ground, are often more economically feasible than putting cables underground.

“Utility poles are truly essential for broadband deployment,” said Johnson, adding that other options are not readily available. “Aerial deployment was [found to be] faster and less expensive than undergrounding,” she said. Charter estimates that “8 percent of utility poles need to be replaced in order to facilitate broadband deployment.”

But when providers want to put new equipment on an existing pole and the pole would need to be replaced to accommodate the new attachments, then the pole owner would pass the cost along to the third-party. That, Johnson said, makes broadband service providers the primary victim for pole replacement costs

Some states have issued a disbursement fund to offset the utility pole replacement cost through a state-sponsored grant program, following service provider concerns that pole owners are using their leverage to unfairly increase costs for attachments, which in turn limits broadband deployment to rural areas.

Letha Tawney, commissioner at Oregon Public Utility Commission, said utility companies are also facing increased maintenance costs for utility poles across the nation resulting from wildfires, severe storms, and climate change.

The issue of replacing poles has already captured the attention of the Federal Communications Commission, which is currently studying the issue of pole attachment costs.

Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.

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Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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5G

5G Will Help Enhance Environment Protection and Sustainability, Conference Hears

The technology has already been used by companies to monitor and make more efficient systems to reduce emissions.

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Photo of Bourhan Yassin, CEO of Rainforest Connection

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Because of its facilitation of real-time monitoring and more efficient use of systems, 5G technology will help tackle climate change and beef up environmental sustainability, an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event heard Tuesday.

5G technology’s ubiquitous connectivity and lower latency enables climate technology that decarbonizes manufacturing plants, enables rainforest monitoring, and limits greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

5G also enables real-time traffic control and monitoring that can help minimize carbon footprint, said John Hunter from T-Mobile, which has a large 5G network thanks in part to its merger with Sprint.

Finnish 5G equipment supplier Nokia has invested in smart manufacturing relying on the speed of 5G in its plants, which it said has resulted in a 10 to 20 percent carbon dioxide reduction and a 30 percent productivity improvement with 50 percent reduction in product defects.

Non-profit tech startup Rainforest Connection has used 5G technology to implant sensitive microphones into endangered rainforests in over 22 countries around the world. These microphones pick up on sounds in the forest and transmit them in real time to personnel on the ground.

These highly sensitive machines are camouflaged in trees and can pick up sounds of gunfire from poaching and chainsaws from illegal logging activity from miles away. The technology has proven to be significant in rainforest conservation and will enable researchers and scientists to find innovative solutions to help endangered species as they study the audio.

“By being able to integrate technologies such as 5G, we can accelerate that process… to achieve the mission [of mitigating climate change effects] sooner than we expected,” said Rainforest Connection CEO Bourhan Yassin.

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Spectrum

Make More Unlicensed Spectrum Available for Increasing Demand for Wi-Fi Use: Panelists

Conference hears the FCC should seek spectrum bands to open up for unlicensed use.

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Photo of Maura Corbett, Alan Inouye, Kathleen Burke, Deb Collier (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2022 – Experts said at a WiFiForward event last week that there should be more carve-outs for unlicensed spectrum to tackle growing demand for connections and relieve congestion on existing frequencies.

Unlicensed spectrum is a set of frequencies that are not restricted to specific entities and may be used by nearly any device. Wi-Fi devices are most commonly found on unlicensed spectrum frequencies.

“We need a lot more [spectrum],” said Alan Inouye from the American Library Association at the event on June 21. New Wi-Fi devices and a growing number of consumers is driving up the demand for unlicensed spectrum, she said.

Kathleen Burke from internet advocacy group Public Knowledge added that, “[Unlicensed Spectrum] plays a critical role in allowing us to have innovative technology that advances our telecommunications opportunities while at the same time providing affordable opportunities to connect.”

Because spectrum is a finite resource, Burke suggested exploring using the 7 Ghz band to expand the spectrum frequencies.

“Do inventory,” said Burke, “and find out what the next bands are based on actual data about what is occupying the current bands and what is available out there today.”

Deb Collier from Citizens Against Government Waste suggested that the Federal Communication Commission lengthen its auction authority to auction out specific spectrum frequencies and provide more space in bands for unlicensed use.

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