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.
Decades-Old Legislation Can Play Supplement to Federal Broadband Infrastructure Money
The Community Reinvestment Act was expanded to include broadband investments in 2016.
CLEVELAND, June 27, 2022 – A decades-old piece of legislation can play an important and supplemental role to federal grants for broadband infrastructure, said panelists at the Pew Charitable Trust Broadband Access Summit Wednesday.
The Community Reinvestment Act was passed in 1977 to address redlining – the practice of denying financial services to individuals or groups based on where they are located, often along racial or soci-economic lines. The law encourages banks to make community development loans and investments in low- and moderate-income communities, rural, and tribal communities.
The legislation expanded to include investments in broadband infrastructure in 2016, after broadband was deemed an essential community service, said Jordana Barton-Garcia, principal of the social enterprise at Barton-Garcia Advisors. That means that it could play a key role in filling some of the broadband gaps, she said, as the federal government moves to distribute billions to the states under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
In response to the pandemic, banks can now qualify to receive CRA credit for broadband deployment activities, said Barton-Garcia. Activities include loans, investments, and services that support digital inclusion or affordability programs.
Banks receive CRA credit for investing in community development projects and are reviewed on their CRA performance every three years. Their scores are open to the general public. If the bank receives a negative rating, it may prevent the bank from opening new branches and the bank will be expected to correct the rating.
Currently, the Federal Reserve is seeking comments on a joint agency proposal to strengthen and modernize CRA regulations.
A report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in 2016 laid the groundwork for broadband to be included under the CRA. “Under the CRA, infrastructure investment includes facilitating the construction, expansion, improvement, maintenance or operation of essential infrastructure… broadband is now a basic infrastructure needed in all communities.”
The CRA also includes workforce development investments, digital literacy projects, and technical assistance for small businesses.
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.’
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.”
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.’
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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