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IRA Spurs Private Investment and Innovation in Clean Energy

The IRA provides long-term investments and tax credits that boost business confidence in pushing forward with private investments.



Photo of Fatima Maria Ahmad of Boundary Stone, Ed Rightor of Information and Technology and Innovation Fund, Harrison Godfrey of Advanced Energy United, Chris Perrault of Powerhouse and Julian Spector of Canary Media

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2023 – The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 spurs private investment in clean energy, bipartisan support for clean energy solutions, and broadband solutions to energy efficiency, said panelists at a Broadband Breakfast event Tuesday. 

The IRA, which invests $400 billion in federal funding to clean energy, is a central part of the White House’s initiative to revitalize the American industry. The majority of the law’s investment comes in the form of tax credits. Corporations will receive an estimated $216 billion in tax credits, which are structured to accelerate private investment in clean energy, transport and manufacturing. 

Fatima Maria Ahmad, vice president for Clean Energy at climate change firm Boundary Stone, said that the IRA was designed to “unleash private capital in line with U.S. climate goals.”  

Indeed, private investment and innovation in green energy technology is booming, reported the senior vice president of strategy and operations at Powerhouse, the climate tech innovation firm, Chris Perrault. He attributed the ever-increasing push of climate investments to policy and investments outlined in the IRA. 

Furthermore, the IRA provides a runway of long-term investments and tax credits that will help businesses feel confident in pushing forward with private investments, added Harrison Godfrey, director of the Advanced Energy United’s Federal Investment and Manufacturing Working Group. 

Many factories and plants are being built in conservative states, added Ahmad. Residents will benefit from the investments, which will “help ensure the resilience of the transition to a clean energy economy,” she said. 

As funding shifts to conservative states, it will give more continuity of support and will develop communities and ecosystems that can provide support for future climate provisions, added Ed Rightor, former director at the Center for Clean Energy Innovation at the Information and Technology and Innovation Foundation.  

These communities will be a durable, long-term support system to nurture and demand further climate investment, he said. He argued that this billion-dollar investment is only the first step in America’s progress toward zero emissions. 

If people can see the core benefits of these investments, it will provide the legs for the additional investment and support in different areas, said Rightor. Future investments include software and artificial intelligence applications to control energy assets and virtual power plants, he said. 

It is important to figure out how to manage plans most efficiently and use the assets that we have to allow the capacity for more renewable energy to come on grid, he said, citing broadband solutions.  

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Transition to Fiber is Essential for Reducing Telecom Emissions: Expert

Replacing copper infrastructure is Altafiber’s biggest climate priority.



Photo of Nadja Turek, director of sustainability at Altafiber

WASHINGTON, August 30, 2023 – Transitioning to fiber-optic infrastructure is essential for telecom companies to reduce emissions, Nadja Turek, director of sustainability at Altafiber, said on Wednesday.

Following guidelines from the Paris Climate Accord, the company is aiming to reduce its emissions by 40% by 2030. 

“First and foremost, we’re looking to do that by serving customers with a fiber network,” Turek said.

The company owns networks in Hawaii and Cincinnati. Both are ILECs, or incumbent local exchange carriers, meaning they historically had a monopoly on landlines in their areas. This means they operate some older, copper-based networks.

Powering those networks accounts for more than 36 percent of Altafiber’s 75 metric tons of annual carbon emissions, Turek said. The company’s fiber network, which is up to twice as energy efficient, serves almost the same geographic area but produces just 6 percent of those emissions.

“It really slaps you in the face right there,” she said. “If we can get out of the business of operating as much of that legacy copper network as possible… We can reduce our emissions.”

Fiber also has the benefit of being more durable, according to Turek. That means fewer interruptions and service calls, and less emissions from Altafiber’s largely gas-powered fleet of maintenance vehicles.

The company’s Hawaii arm, Hawaiian Telecom, has expanded its fiber network in Hawaii last year, both replacing its copper connections and reaching unserved areas.

It is also involved in efforts to restore connectivity to victims of the Maui wildfires. The Federal Communications Commission has temporarily waived several broadband assistance programs on the island.

Recipients of benefits under four programs have fewer paperwork requirements and anyone receiving housing assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency can receive Lifeline Program discounts. 

“There’s just been a tremendous effort, and the emotional toll that this tragedy takes on the entire Hawaii family is really severe,” Turek said.

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Artificial Intelligence

U.S. Government is Eyeing AI to Improve Emergency Alerts, Outreach

Artificial intelligence could eliminate uncertainty in emergency weather alerts.



Screenshot of Frank Indiviglo, chief technology officer at NOAA

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2023 – United States government agencies are eyeing artificial intelligence to aid emergency alerts and other outreach services, experts said on Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is looking to use AI to do new kinds of analysis on storm and wildfire data, improving alert system accuracy as climate change makes natural disasters more common, said NOAA Chief Technology Officer Frank Indiviglo.

“Things you see on your local weather channel are good,” Indiviglo said, “but really understanding ahead of these events: Am I at risk? Is my family at risk? That’s what we’re working toward,” Indiviglo said at a Technology Spotlight event hosted by NextGov.

Emergency weather alerts from NOAA have been broadcast since the 1970s from the agency’s radio network, which continuously transmits forecasts otherwise. Cable TV stations broadcast the audio of their local NOAA radio station in emergencies.

The alerts warn listeners of severe weather events in their area. Coverage can be hindered by mountains, but the agency says that more than 95% of Americans live in areas covered by the system as of July 2023.

The agency’s forecasts, and thus emergency alerts, are based on data collected by physical sensors and the outputs of several mathematical models designed to give the agency a picture of what’s happening on the ground, according to NOAA technical procedures.

People have complained about other FCC alerts warning them of severe weather and other emergencies that are not in their area. More computationally intensive analysis aided by AI would help the agency issue these warnings with more precision, Indiviglo said.

Patty Delafuente, a data scientist at AI hardware and software company NVIDIA, said fielding help desk calls and other customer services are another common use case for the company’s government clients.

Language models that have ingested huge amounts of information can help government employees serve people asking what programs they qualify for, especially as more experienced workers retire, she said.

U.S. government spending on AI has exceeded $7 billion in the last three fiscal years.

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AT&T to Halt Removal of Lead-Clad Cables in Lake Tahoe, Denies Contamination Claims in WSJ Report

The Wall Street Journal report alleging the toxicity of the cables is inaccurate, claims AT&T.



Photo of Lake Tahoe

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2023 – AT&T said in a Tuesday court filing that it “strongly disagrees” with a report from the Wall Street Journal that alleged that lead-clad telecom cables in Lake Tahoe and elsewhere raise a significant public health concern and will halt removal of the cables. 

The company had previously agreed to remove two lead-clad cables in Lake Tahoe at a cost of up to $1.5 million as part of a 2021 settlement with California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, which sued AT&T to remove the cables.  

AT&T said in the filing that it believes it is in the public interest that the cables remain in place as they “pose no danger to those who work and play in the waters of Lake Tahoe.” It claims that it agreed to remove them in 2021 “simply to avoid the expense of litigation.”  

The company said that its repeated testing on the cables, which are publicly available, supports the decision to keep the cables in ground and puts into question the validity of the WSJ’s report that “placed these cables at the center of what it claims is a national public health crisis.”  

According to AT&T, WSJ depended entirely on data commissioned by the WSJ and that it was conducted by “individuals with clear agendas and conflicts of interest.” It claimed that some of the researchers were the same who prompted California Sportfishing Protection Alliance to issue the original lawsuit.  

In fact, it cited a statement by Below the Blue, an organization responsible for sampling of cables in Lake Tahoe and elsewhere, that says “sampling locations were chosen in part by their likelihood to show high lead levels.”  

Not only are the testing methods in question, the telecom said, but the results of the test commissioned by the WSJ “differ dramatically” from testing commissioned by AT&T in 2021 and other research which allegedly show that no lead was detected leaking from the cables and that the low levels found in the water were likely not a release from the cables, but from another background source.  

“In the spirit of transparency and informed public health, the parties should agree to maintain these cables in place to permit further analysis by any qualified and independent interested party, including the Environmental Protection Agency, and allow the safety of these cables to be litigated with objective scientific evidence rather than sensationalized media coverage,” it stated.   

Tom Neltner, senior director of safer chemicals at nonprofit advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, recommended in a Monday letter to the Environmental Protection Agency administrator that the agency assess the condition of the underwater cables to determine their condition and anticipated releases in the environment, including risks posed by their removal or by leaving them in place. AT&T asserted that the best course of action would be to maintain the status quo until the EPA has evaluated the environmental concerns of the cables. 

AT&T added that it “would never dismiss any health risk or concern” to its customers. It committed to add a voluntary testing program for any employee who works or has worked with lead-clad cables, conduct additional testing beyond Lake Tahoe, and perform in-person site visits to inspect condition and determine if any action is necessary. 

Cost estimates

The WSJ report claimed that lead contamination exists in more than 2,000 telecom cables that crisscross the country owned by various providers. Share prices for AT&T, Verizon, Frontier, Lumen and others dropped following the report; some, like AT&T’s, dipped to their lowest price in decades.  

One financial analyst firm, New Street Research, estimates that there are roughly 48 million addresses connected to lead-clad cables. It predicts that some of these cables will be updated by federal funding to cross the digital divide, namely the $42.5-billion Broadband, Equity Access and Deployment program. For the rest, the telecom industry will be left with a $59 billion cost to clean up. 

“AT&T likely has the highest [financial] exposure overall, followed by Verizon and Lumen,” New Street Research wrote in a note to investors.  

New Street analysis added that the government has a tough choice in deciding who will pay for removing the cables: the companies, telecom customers or taxpayers. “If they [Congress] force ILECs to pay the bill, some will be forced into bankruptcy delaying the remediation process in those markets potentially indefinitely. It will significantly slow the deployment of fiber infrastructure in the U.S. It would also leave less resources available to bring broadband to unserved and underserved markets via the BEAD program,” the note said. 

“Regardless of who pays, this will be a major overhang for the incumbent local exchange carriers for some time,” it concluded. 

“The telecommunications companies responsible for these phone lines must act swiftly and responsibly to ensure the mitigation of any environmental and public health effects,” Senator Edward Markey, D-Mass., wrote this week in a letter to telecom trade association USTelecom. “This is corporate irresponsibility of the worst kind.” 

Markey asked the association and its members, which includes AT&T, to identify how much of its cabling contains lead and where those cables are located. Most U.S. telecom companies stopped using such cabling in the 1960s, but the cables are still in use in many areas of the country.  

A Verizon spokesperson said that the company is “taking these concerns regarding lead-sheathed cables very serious.” It added that it has not deployed these cables in decades and that they only make a “small percentage” of the company’s existing network.  

Consolidated Communications added that it “takes the health and safety of our works, neighbors and the communities in which we live and operate very seriously.” 

Lumen said that it is “redoubling efforts by working with outside experts to prioritize and sequence our investigative efforts, including site testing and implementation of science-based steps where advisable.” 

The Communications Workers of America said in a statement last week that it is “actively expanding its collaborations with researchers to delve into groundbreaking studies about lead depositions in bone in telecommunications workers.” The work seeks to better empower works to take action to monitor and protect their health.  

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