Sen. Wicker Asks for Broadband Spend Review, Starlink Speeds, WIA and Ohio State Partner on Curriculum

Senator Wicker is asking for a review of how funds set aside for broadband during the pandemic are being used.

Sen. Wicker Asks for Broadband Spend Review, Starlink Speeds, WIA and Ohio State Partner on Curriculum
Photo of Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss

March 16, 2022 –  Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss, sent a letter on Wednesday to the inspector general urging the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to conduct an oversight review to ensure that funds allocated for broadband expansion were used truthfully.

“The speed at which funds were disbursed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the sheer amount of money involved, put the funds at high risk of fraud and misuse, making the work of oversight entities like the PRAC and IGs essential to a successful national recovery,” Wicker wrote in the letter.

The pandemic brought about multiple pieces of legislation that were set to help with broadband expansion, including the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and the American Rescue Plan Act. An additional piece of legislation, the CARES Act, created the PRAC, whose sole purpose is to review how programs created in response to the pandemic are addressing their intended issues.

Starlink saw speeds increase in the fourth quarter of 2021, hitting download speeds of over 100 Megabits per second, according to new data from speed metrics company Ookla.

The satellite broadband business of SpaceX surpassed all other satellite providers between October and December, including HughesNet and Viasat, as the fastest satellite service and increased its speeds over the previous quarter, Ookla’s Wednesday report said.

However, Starlink is heavily concentrated in the southwestern part of the United States, primarily in California, Arizona, and southern Nevada, and in Maine and Washington state. At the county-level, Starlink’s performance varied heavily, the report said.

Starlink earlier this year launched a more expensive premium product that increases the satellite service’s speeds from 150 Mbps to 500 Mbps.

Wireless Infrastructure Association to help craft 5G curriculum at Ohio State

The Wireless Infrastructure Association will work with Ohio State University to craft curriculum on broadband and 5G technologies, the industry association announced Wednesday.

“WIA’s Telecommunications Education Center is the premier program developing and delivering curriculum and training to prepare the workforce to meet the demand of 5G,” said WIA executive vice president Tim House in a press release.

The WIA will act as an in-house expert, giving input on what skills are lacking in the broadband workforce, how the program can be the most effective, and aid in the planning and execution of such programs.

The announcement was made alongside Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, who late last year announced new college programs launching this spring at three universities that will offer telecommunications tower technician programs. The developments are part of the state’s Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband and 5G Workforce plan.

“Our joint steps over the next couple of years will set the stage for sustained workforce development initiatives,” said Anish Arora, chair of the Ohio State computer science and engineering department. “These will range from implementing awareness programs to developing an immediately employable workforce as well as training the next generation of technical leaders and executives.”

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