House Committee Passes Bills, $266M from Emergency Connectivity Fund, Glo Fiber Maryland Grant

The House energy committee pushed forth bills that will, among other things, extend the FCC’s auction authority.

House Committee Passes Bills, $266M from Emergency Connectivity Fund, Glo Fiber Maryland Grant
Photo of Rep. David Trone, D-MD

July 14, 2022 – The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed four telecom bills to the House floor Wednesday that are intended to improve safety in emergency situations, strengthen service affordability programs, and improve spectrum access for commercial use.

The Spectrum Innovation Act of 2022, H.R. 7624, helps free up airwaves for commercial wireless use, and requires an auction of airwaves of at least 200 megahertz within seven years; the Ensuring Phone and Internet Access Through Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program Act of 2022, H.R. 4275, seeks to facilitate the process for consumers to enroll in federal programs for voice and internet services; the Institute for Telecommunication Science Codification Act, H.R. 4990, reaffirms that the National Telecommunications Information Administration as the agency responsible for overseeing federal airwaves; and the Safe Connections Act of 2022, H.R. 7132, aims to protect survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking by requiring mobile providers to separate a survivor’s phone line from an account shared with their abuser.

The Spectrum Innovation Act also extends the Federal Communication Commission’s spectrum auction authority to March 2024, allowing it to continue to conduct future airwave auctions. Rep Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., said her bill had been updated “to establish a new federal grant program to help fund the nationwide adoption of Next Generation 9-1-1.

“This technology will bring our nation’s 9-1-1 services into the 21st Century by allowing emergency communication centers to receive real-time location information, text messages, photos, and video from individuals at the scene of an emergency and be able to share that information with first responders in the field to help them better respond,” stated Eshoo.

FCC announces additional $266 million from Emergency Connectivity Fund

The FCC announced Wednesday that it is committing over $266 million in two new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Fund.

The ECF is a $7.1 billion program intended to help schools and libraries provide the tools and services that communities need for remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money announced this week will support applications from all three of the ECF’s application windows. The last window closed in May. It will support over one million students across the country, 415 schools, 47 libraries, and 16 consortia.

“Thanks to the Emergency Connectivity Fund, now more students across the country have the digital tools they need to support their education,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “In too many communities, kids are still struggling to get the internet and devices they need to connect with teachers and do their homework.  We have to fix this.  This program is helping, and I’m proud of the progress we are making to close the Homework Gap.”

The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education.

Total funding committed from the ECF to date, read the press release, is nearly $5.6 billion. It has helped more than 12.8 million students, supporting approximately 10,000 schools, 900 libraries, and 100 consortia, and providing over 11 million connected devices and nearly 7 million broadband connections.

This follows an announcement in May that the FCC approved an additional $50 million from the ECF.

Shentel awarded grant in Maryland

Glo Fiber, a subsidiary of Shenandoah Telecommunications Company, was awarded $10 million from the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband to deploy fiber-to-the-premises broadband in Frederick County.

The project is provided by the federal American Rescue Plan and will bring fiber to over 3,000 homes and businesses in the county, said a press release. Glo Fiber is currently building a multi-gigabit fiber network in the City of Frederick.

The funding is “a win for investing in Frederick County’s way of life while maintaining access to the essential services and economic benefits that broadband provides,” said Rep. David Trone, D-MD.

Glo Fiber will use Shentel’s 7600-mile regional fiber network to provide unlimited multi-gigabit internet access with symmetrical upload and download speeds.

“Shentel is thrilled at the opportunity to work with local and state officials to finally bring this critical service to residents who have remained unserved for far too long,” said Chris Kyle, vice president of Industry and Regulatory Affairs at Shentel. “These innovative partnerships are exactly what we need to finally close the digital divide, and we are proud to be able to join in the great work that Frederick County and the State of Maryland have been doing.”

This follows a recent announcement that Maryland awarded more than $127.6 million in grants to internet service providers through the Connect Maryland Initiative.

Reporter Riley Haight contributed to this report

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