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Lack of Adequate Workforce Expected to Hamper Broadband Industry, Says Panel

‘Everyone says, ‘Oh, there’s going to be a workforce shortage,’ but no one is really focusing on it.’



Matt Larsen, CEO of Vistabeam, via LinkedIn.

LAS VEGAS, October 4, 2022 – The American broadband industry is likely to soon face an acute workforce shortage, said a panel Monday at the WISPAPALOOZA conference.

As the federal government rolls out unprecedented broadband monetary investments from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program and other sources, some experts warn that the industry is glossing over the absence of another crucial resource: labor.

“Everyone says, ‘Oh, there’s going to be a workforce shortage,’ but no one is really focusing on it,” said Elizabeth Bowles, CEO of internet service provider Aristotle Unified Communications.

What’s more, many workers in the nation’s broadband workforce will be very inexperienced, said Matt Larsen, CEO of internet service provider Vistabeam.

The Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the big infrastructure funding package, includes money for workforce training. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has previously emphasized the need for workforce training funds for broadband infrastructure.

Some governments are working to expand the broadband workforce as well. In March, Ohio State University announced a new curriculum on broadband technologies. That same month, the federal Telecommunications Workforce Interagency Group held its first webcast, where apprenticeship programs were discussed as crucial for the future of broadband expansion.

Larsen told Broadband Breakfast, however, that union-friendly hiring restrictions are likely to cause further workforce-driven delays. Regulators and industry players must balance “the worker’s well-being and ability to earn with the company’s need for predictable and manageable goals,” he said.

Larsen predicted better workforce outcomes for areas in which companies “have the flexibility to hire the people that are best for the job.”

How Vistabeam is recruiting and training its team

Vistabeam is “trying to build [its] own army,” Larsen told Broadband Breakfast. He said his company recruits hard-working young people who demonstrate an ability to learn: “We’re really looking for learn-it-alls as opposed to know-it-alls.”

In addition to offering competitive pay and good benefits, Larsen said Vistabeam attracts candidates by highlighting the fun side of working in the broadband industry and learning about technology. Employees go through a comprehensive and ongoing training process to ensure safety, he added.

At a Pew Charitable Trusts event last summer, Rachael Stephens, director of workforce development and economic policy for the National Governors Association, argued for collaboration between a host of partners, including the federal government, state governments, private industry, and educational institutions.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

State Officials Highlight Discrepancies Between Updated FCC Map and Ground Truth

There are ‘locations where we know it is not possible to receive that level of service,’ said Maine’s broadband authority.



Image of FCC National Broadband Map

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2023 – State broadband officials are finding discrepancies between what they see on the ground and what the Federal Communications Commission’s new national broadband map released last week reports. 

The new version of the map identifies nearly 330,000 new unserved locations and updates availability data for more than 3 million locations. According to the FCC’s statement, the new version has resolved 75 percent of the issues raised since November and reflects more than a million new serviced locations. It will be the basis for Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program awards. 

“Version two of the map is a step in the right direction but will never be perfect when it is based on a snapshot of the availability of service from technologies that are very dynamic,” said Deputy Director of Vermont Community Broadband Board, Rob Fish in comments to Broadband Breakfast. 

Vermont is taking time to absorb the information in the map seeing as there are discrepancies between what the state sees on the ground and what the map shows, said Fish. There are still challenges that need to be resolved by the FCC, which, when talking about billions of dollars in a small state, can make a huge difference, he said. 

Maine Connect Authority said in a statement to Broadband Breakfast that they were “disappointed to see claims of advertised speeds at locations where we know it is not possible to receive that level of service.” The state will continue to improve the map through citizen engagement, partner collaboration, and the FCC challenge process. 

“We believe there is opportunity to incorporate more diverse data sources in the future,” said Andrew Butcher, director of Maine Connect Authority, referring to crowdsourced speed tests. “It is unfortunate that this work will not be counted toward our BEAD Allocation dollars.” 

‘Neither accurate nor precise’

Sascha Meinrath, telecommunications professor at Penn State University, said in an email that the maps “are neither accurate – they vastly overstate service availability – nor precise – with failure rates of 10 to 20 percent in correctly identifying rural broadband serviceable locations and huge problems correctly identifying homes versus garages in many cities.” 

Meinrath also claimed that the maps “completely whitewash underservicing of communities of color in our urban cores; all while failing to provide any pricing information, much less any overlay of demographic information.” 

President and Founder of tech consultant Reid Consulting Group Tom Reid expressed his agreement in an email, stating that the maps have made no significant improvement since previous maps based on Form 477 data-collection and that “the difference this time is that so many policy makers perceive the new maps to be better.” 

Reid suggested that the precision of the fabric locations, which simply maps the broadband serviceable locations and does not contain coverage claims, is falsely translated into accuracy with the coverage claims.  

Industry groups expressed support for a ‘success story’ of broadband

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association expressed its support of the map, claiming that it “tells the success story of the vibrant and growing ISP broadband industry.” 

US Telecom CEO Jonathan Spalter said in a statement that “the data contained in this version of the National Broadband Map will no doubt be an important tool to reach 100 percent connectivity.” 

The BEAD awards to states are expected to be announced June 30. States will allocate subgrants based on new iterations of FCC maps and state-collected data which will be available through a state challenge process. 

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Advanced Energy

Greater Private Investments Will Supplement Federal Dollars Expended in Build America Initiative

Private investments need to support federal money going to infrastructure projects across the United States.



Photo of Jigar Shah of the Department of Energy

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2023 – American investments in its domestic manufacturing must be accompanied by private investment and ambition, said the director of the Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office Jigar Shah a a Thursday event by nonprofit newsroom Canary Media. 

Currently, private companies are not interested in financing manufacturing loans in the U.S., said Shah. He urged the private industry to show more ambition by investing in infrastructure programs as federal investments come down the pipeline. 

Don’t miss the discussion of the connection between green energy, semiconductor manufacturing and infrastructure investment at Broadband Breakfast’s Made in America Summit on June 27.

The Build America Buy America Act, strengthened as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, requires that all iron, steel, manufactured products and construction materials used in federally funded projects to be produced in the U.S.

Additionally, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 which invests $400 billion in federal funding to clean energy and the CHIPS and Science Act which invests $280 billion into U.S. domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Semiconductors are the microprocessors that power all electronic applications. 

These investments, paired with the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which invests in various American infrastructure projects, play a central role in the administration’s strategy to revitalize the American industry. They invest in a more sustainable, consistent, and dependable supply chain for the U.S. economy, said Shah. 

Investing in American manufacturing will increase investor confidence that the U.S. is capable of large manufacturing projects, he added. 

By passing these acts, Congress has moved forward to improve American manufacturing, said Shah. It is now up to private industry to make the most of these investments and reinvent themselves to improve American global competitiveness. 

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FCC Votes Forward 42 GHz Spectrum Sharing Model Proposal to Broaden Use

Proposed rules will consider how the band might be made available through non-exclusive spectrum access models.



Photo of Nathan Simington, Brendan Carr, Jessica Rosenworcel, Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously at its June open meeting to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that explores how the 42 – 42.5 GHz spectrum band might be made available on a shared basis. 

The FCC will consider how the band might be made available through one of several non-exclusive spectrum access models that would have the potential to maximize its use, particularly by smaller providers. 

The 42 GHz band has 500 megahertz of greenfield airwaves with no federal or commercial incumbencies, which the FCC seeks to use with non-exclusive access models. This could entail using technology-based sensing to help operators mitigate interference by detecting and avoiding one another, non-exclusive licenses that leverage a database to facilitate co-existence, or site-based licensing. 

“In the United States, we have already auctioned nearly five gigahertz of this spectrum for traditional exclusive use. I believe now it’s time for something new,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in her statements. 

The notice further seeks comment on whether the approaches in the 42 GHz band could be used in other spectrum bands, like the lower 37 GHz band.

Comments regarding the action are due July 8. 

“Our goal here is to come up with a new model to lower barriers, encourage competition and maximize the opportunities in millimeter wave spectrum,” said Rosenworcel, urging for more creativity in sharing models. 

The FCC’s spectrum auction authority expired in March for the first time in its history.  

The FCC also voted to issue proposed rules that would advance the transition to next generation 911, which supports new 911 capabilities including text, video and data sharing.

The ruling would require that originating wireline, interconnected voice over internet protocol, and internet-based telecommunications relay service providers format 911 calls to be compatible with NG911 in IP-based format.  

For providers to implement these regulations, the ruling proposed a timeline of six months from the date it is adopted. Rosenworcel said this would “expedite and inform public safety efforts and dramatically improve emergency response.” 

The commission also voted forward proposed rules that would enhance the accessibility of interoperable video conferencing services by requiring video conferencing platforms to comply with the accessibility requirements under the Communications Act. That includes improving speech-to-text captioning, text-to-speech capabilities, sign language interpreters, and other accessibility tools.  

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