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White House to Announce State Broadband Deployment Allocations Monday Morning

State broadband officers are prepared to leverage BEAD money to connect all Americans to the internet.

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Photo of Jeff Zients, White House Chief of Staff by Chip Somodevilla

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2023 – President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will announce more than $40 billion in infrastructure funding to all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program on Monday.

The White House compared Monday’s announcement to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, which delivered electricity to every home in America.

The “unprecedented investment in broadband is going to finally close the digital divide,” White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said Friday in a press call embargoed until Monday morning.

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

The announcement, which is expected to be made at 11:45 a.m., according to the Commerce Department, is part of a broader goal to connect all Americans to the internet, Zients said.

See the Biden Administration’s Briefing Document, “Delivering Internet to All Americans.”

Every state will have six months to submit initial proposals to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that outlines what they will do with the funds, said senior administration officials. Once plans are approved, states will be able to access up to 20 percent of the allocated funds.

States will then begin to execute their competitive grant processes for subgrantees. Final plans will then be submitted for approval, upon which states will receive their remaining allocation.

Although the timeline for BEAD is long, efforts in other federal grant programs, including the NTIA’s Middle Mile program and Capital Projects Fund, are already beginning to take effect, said a senior administration official. “The BEAD funding is intended to finish the job” of connecting every American to the internet by 2030.

The BEAD program is the largest of three programs funded under the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and funds last mile infrastructure to connect to unserved and underserved communities.

The IIJA defines “unserved” as homes that lack access to broadband at 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. “Underserved” homes are defined as those that lack access to 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up. 

State broadband office response 

Funds will be distributed to states, which will be responsible for connecting unserved and underserved communities. The announcement has been highly anticipated for at least 5 months with several states, including Louisiana, Maine, and Utah, having already released state 5-year broadband and digital equity plans.  

Idaho Broadband Program Manager Ramon Hobdey-Sanchez said of the announcement that “the timing couldn’t be better, as Idaho wraps up with the state’s 5-year action plan and begins work on the initial proposal. The communities and residents of Idaho are energized and ready for the work ahead.” 

The Indiana Broadband Office is eagerly awaiting Monday’s announcement, State Broadband Director Earnie Holtrey told Broadband Breakfast. “We stand ready to leverage BEAD, along with ongoing state efforts, to connect every remaining unserved Indiana resident to affordable, reliable broadband.” 

BEAD allocation estimates

More than half of states are expected to see larger allocations in the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program allocations based on the updated national broadband map compared to earlier estimates on older maps, reported business consulting firm Cartesian report Tuesday.  

Allocation levels to eligible entities are based on the second version of the Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband map. Changes in the data between the first and second version of the map are the result of availability and location data challenges. The new version, released earlier this month, identifies nearly 330,000 new unserved locations and updates availability data for more than 3 million locations. 

The report found that 23 states will see less funding according to updated data on national maps. The state expected to see the largest increase is Nebraska, which was originally estimated to receive $210 million and is now expected to receive $633 million. 

Cartesian estimates that Texas will be the largest recipient of funds, with close to $3.5 billion. California and Virginia are the next highest projected awardees, both of which have higher estimated funding allocations based on version two of the map compared to the first version. 

The report also estimates that the total provider match will be $21 billion, which will equate to about $2,898 per location. According to its research, Cartesian anticipates that BEAD funding and matches will be sufficient to meet program goals of making broadband available nationwide. 

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Funding

House Democrat Introduces Bill to Add Local Parks to E-Rate Program

The Technology in the Parks Act would also put parks in line for used computers and equipment from federal agencies.

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Screenshot of Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, at a House hearing on November 15.

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2023 – A House Democrat announced on Friday a bill that would fund broadband internet and devices for public parks.

The Technology in the Parks Act would expand the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program to include local parks. That program currently provides approximately $4 billion in yearly broadband subsidies for schools and libraries through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. Adding public parks would allow them to request government money toward the cost of internet each month.

The move is “crucial to bringing broadband access to these community spaces,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, in a statement.

In an effort to provide devices on the subsidized connection, the bill would also put parks in the U.S. General Services Administration’s Computers for Learning program. That would give parks access to computer equipment no longer being used by federal agencies. 

The bill would also tap the Department of Labor to implement a grant program for “technology training programs” in local parks.

Similar programs aimed at helping people navigate and participate in online spaces are drawing funds from other federal agencies. The Commerce Department’s $42.5 billion broadband expansion program makes room for states to fund digital literacy trainings, and its $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act programs are targeted at such efforts.

Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, and Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, introduced a similar bill on November 29 that would expand broadband in national parks managed by the federal government.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

Robocalls, Rip and Replace, Pole Attachments: More Notes From the FCC Oversight Hearing

Commissioners and House lawmakers discussed key topics at a contentious hearing.

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Screenshot of commissioners at the hearing Thursday.

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2023 – All five Federal Communications Commissioners took part in a lengthy and at times contentious House oversight hearing on Thursday.

Commissioners urged Congress to restore the FCC’s authority to action spectrum, which expired in March and left the nation’s airwaves in limbo, and to fund the Affordable Connectivity Program, the low-income internet subsidy set to dry up in April of next year. 

GOP lawmakers FCC Republicans also took the chance to slam efforts by the commission’s Democratic majority.

The discussion touched on other issues including robocall prevention, rip and replace funding, and pole attachments.

Robocalls

The commission has been taking action on preventing robocalls this year, kicking off an inquiry into using artificial intelligence to detect fraud, blocking call traffic from 20 providers for lax enforcement policies and issuing hundreds of millions in fines. In August the commission also expanded the STIR/SHAKEN regime – a set of measures to confirm caller identities – to all providers who handle call traffic.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel asked multiple times for three Congressional actions she said would help the commission crack down on scam calls: a new definition for “autodialer,” the ability to collect fines, and access to Bank Secrecy Act information.

The Supreme Court limited the definition of autodialers in 2021 to devices that store or produce phone numbers with random or sequential number generators. That leaves the scope of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which guides the FCC’s authority, “stuck in the nineties,” according to Rosenworcel.

“A lot of scam artists are using technologies no longer covered” by the act, she said. “We can’t go after them.”

On collecting robocall fines, that authority currently rests with the Department of Justice, and Rosenworcel is not the first to tell Congress the agency’s enforcement has been lax. Industry groups at an October Senate hearing cited slow DOJ action as a major reason FCC fines on the issue often go uncollected.

The Bank Secrecy Act requires financial institutions to keep records on certain transactions to help law enforcement agencies track money laundering and other criminal activity. The FCC cannot access information governed by the act, which Rosenworcel said would help the commission go after repeat scammers.

“These scam artists set up one company, we shut them down, they go and set another one up,” she said.

Rip and replace

Commissioners urged Congress to fund the rip and replace program. Congress allocated $1.9 billion to reimburse broadband companies for replacing network equipment from Chinese companies deemed to be national security threats, mainly Huawei and ZTE.

The FCC was tasked with overseeing the program and found in 2022 that another $3 billion would be needed to get the work done. The Biden administration joined a chorus of lawmakers and broadband companies in calling for Congress to fill the gap, but legislation on the issue has yet to be passed.

“We’re providing 40 cents on the dollar to a lot of small and rural carriers,” said Rosenworcel. “They need more funds to get the job done.”

The commission has been granting extensions to providers unable to get the work done on time. In addition to supply chain issues, some small providers cite a lack of funding as the reason they’re unable to replace insecure equipment.

Pole attachments

Commissioners expressed a willingness to shift some of the burden of utility pole replacements off of broadband providers as they attach new equipment.

“If a pole is getting replaced,” Commissioner Brendan Carr said, “there’s probably a role for the FCC to say that the pole owner should bear somewhere north of the cost of $0.”

The commission has authority in 26 states over most pole attachment deals between utility pole owners and telecommunications companies looking to expand their networks. The issue of who pays for poles that need to be replaced to accommodate more communications equipment is contentious, with telecoms arguing utilities force them to pay for replacing already junk poles. 

After spending years sifting through thousands of comments, commissioners have apparently been persuaded. Rules up for a vote at the commission’s December meeting would limit the scenarios in which utilities could pass full replacement costs on to attachers.

Broadband funding map

Rosenworcel repeatedly asked lawmakers to work with the commission on ensuring its broadband funding map is kept up to date.

The FCC launched its funding map in May to keep track of the myriad federal broadband subsidy efforts and avoid funding the same areas multiple times. The Department of Agriculture, the FCC, and the Treasury Department each oversee separate broadband funding programs, in addition to the Commerce Department’s upcoming $42.5 billion broadband expansion effort.

The commission has signed memoranda of understanding with those agencies on providing data for the funding map, but Rosenworcel asked the subcommittee for help ensuring the agencies follow through and respond to FCC requests for their funding data. 

“If you could help us make sure those other agencies respond to us with data, you’ll see where there are problems, duplication, areas we haven’t reached,” she said.

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Cloud

John English: Isolating Last-Mile Service Disruptions in Evolved Cable Networks

The adoption of new technologies presents operators with a plethora of new variables to manage on the user control plane.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is John English, Director of Service Provider Marketing and Business Development for Netscout

Cable operators are increasingly investing in next-generation network infrastructure, including upgrades to support distributed access architecture and fiber to the home.

By bringing this infrastructure closer to subscribers, cable operators are evolving their networks, adopting greater virtualization  and redistributing key elements toward the edges. They expect these changes to increase their network’s interoperability and, ultimately, improve the speed and uptime available to subscribers. In turn, cable operators expect these new capabilities will help redefine what services they can offer.

However, these new advanced networks are much more complex than previous generations. By virtualizing or cloudifying functions at the edge, operators risk losing the sort of visibility that is essential to rapidly pinpointing the source of service disruptions – and ensuring their networks are meeting desired performance thresholds for next-gen applications.

The challenge of complexity in virtualized networks

As cable networks evolve, so does their complexity. The adoption of technologies like virtualized Cable Modem Termination Systems (vCMTS) and distributed access architecture presents operators with a plethora of new variables to manage, particularly on the user control plane.

Always-on applications and those applications that are most sensitive to network performance changes, such as video games, AR/VR, and remotely-piloted drones, to name just a few examples, require continuous measurement and monitoring for reliability. But ensuring consistent quality of service under all conditions the network may face is no small feat.

To illustrate, let’s consider how cable operators will manage disruptions in a virtualized environment. When issues inevitably pop up, will they be able to isolate the problem virtually, or will they need to dispatch a technician to investigate? Additionally, once a technician is onsite, will they have advanced intelligence to determine if the source of the problem is hardware or software-related?

Or will they need to update or replace multiple systems (e.g., consumer premesis equipment, optical network terminals, router, modem, etc.) to try to resolve the problem? Finally, will they need to also investigate additional network termination points if that doesn’t do the trick?

Indeed, each time a truck or technician is dispatched represents a significant outpouring of resources, and adopting a trial-and-error, process-of-elimination approach to resolution is a costly means of restoring service that cable operators cannot afford at scale. Likewise, the customers that depend the most on constant network availability and performance for various uses, such as content distribution networks, transportation services, and industrial manufacturers, won’t tolerate significant disruptions for long.

Packet monitoring for rapid resolution of last-mile disruptions

In the evolving landscape of cable networks, where downtime can lead to customer dissatisfaction, churn, and revenue loss, rapid resolution of last-mile service disruptions is paramount. Cable operators need more advanced network telemetry to understand where – and why – disruptions are occurring. In short, evolved networks require evolved monitoring. This starts with deep packet inspection at scale.

Packets don’t lie, so they offer an excellent barometer into the health of both the control and user planes. Additionally, they can help determine last-mile & core latency per subscriber, as well as by dimension, so operators can test how different configurations affect performance.

Additionally, in the event of a major service disruption, packet monitoring at the edge enables operators to accurately measure how many subscribers are out of service – regardless of whatever hardware or software they’re using – and determine if there’s a common reason for mass outages to help technicians resolve any problems faster. Finally, proactive monitoring, especially when combined with artificial intelligence, empowers operators to detect and address potential issues before they impact subscribers.≠

All in all, cable operators are navigating a challenging yet exciting era of network evolution. The transition to advanced infrastructure and the demand for high-quality, low-latency services necessitate sophisticated monitoring and diagnostic tools. Deep packet inspection technology will continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth operation of evolved cable networks.

Additionally, in the quest to maintain the quality of service expected by subscribers, operators must abandon the costly process-of-elimination approach and adopt rapid resolution techniques. By doing so, they will not only reduce service disruption but also make more efficient use of resources, ultimately benefiting both their bottom line and the end user’s experience. Evolved cable networks require evolved strategies, and rapid issue isolation through advanced monitoring must be at the forefront of this transformation.

John English is Director of Service Provider Marketing and Business Development at Netscout’s Service Provider unit. He has an extensive background in telecom, including a decade at a major communications service provider and numerous OEMs and ecosystem partners. English is an expert on how communications service providers can successfully implement new technologies like 5G and virtualization/cloudification while continually assuring the performance of their networks and services. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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