FCC: Pai’s Future

— FCC Chairman Ajit Pai didn’t quite rule out an eventual run for office and said he hopes to find common ground with lawmakers in the new Congress in an interview with Margaret for C-SPAN’S The Communicators. He said his 2019 agenda will focus on rural broadband, telemedicine, 5G, public safety communications and robocalls.

— On Mobility Fund : Pai wouldn’t say the consequences carriers could face as a result of the investigation into whether one or more carriers overstated their wireless coverage for maps that will determine eligibility for subsidies under the $4.5 billion Mobility Fund program. He said the agency is committed to getting accurate data first. “Our goal is to make sure that we get the data right that will allow us to make an informed decision about where that funding should go.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech [Emphasis Added]

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USDA Launches New Program to Create High-Speed Internet e-Connectivity in Rural America

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2018 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering up to $600 million in loans and grants to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s new ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. Answering the Administration’s call to action for rural prosperity, Congress appropriated funds in the fiscal year 2018 budget for this broadband pilot program. USDA Rural Development is the primary agency delivering the program, with assistance from other federal partners.

“High-speed internet e-Connectivity is a necessity, not an amenity, vital for quality of life and economic opportunity, so we hope that today rural communities kick off their rural broadband project planning,” Secretary Perdue said. “Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA has worked to understand the true needs of rural communities facing this challenge so we can be strong partners to create high-speed, reliable broadband e-Connectivity.”

USDA will make available approximately $200 million for grants (applications due to USDA by April 29), as well as $200 million for loan and grant combinations (applications due May 29), and $200 million for low-interest loans (applications due by June 28).

Projects funded through this initiative must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload.

Approved projects must create access speeds of at least 25 mbps upload and 3 mbps download. Priority will be awarded for projects that propose to deliver higher-capacity connections to rural homes, businesses and farms. USDA seeks to stretch these funds as far as possible by leveraging existing networks and systems without overbuilding existing services greater than 10/1 mbps.

Evaluation criteria include connecting agricultural production and marketing, e-Commerce, health care and education facilities. Previous research by USDA has demonstrated that high-capacity broadband is critical to all aspects of rural prosperity, including the ability to grow and attract businesses, retain and develop talent, and maintain rural quality of life.

To help customers with the application process, USDA is holding a series of online webinars and regional in-person workshops. The full list of upcoming public webinars and workshops can be found at the ReConnect Program’s resource portal at reconnect.usda.gov.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit http://www.rd.usda.gov.

Source 

High-Speed Internet Project for Nevada County Gets Green Light (Docs)

The California Public Utilities Commission has signaled approval of the sale of Bright Fiber Inc. to Race Communications with some changes, a move that after months of inaction advances a high-speed internet project in Nevada County.

The CPUC on Monday released a resolution detailing the changes, which include having 75 percent of the project on existing utility poles instead of “primarily underground.” Additionally, the utilities commission grant — which comprises 60 percent of the total project cost — will be reduced by almost $70,000, for a total of $16,086,789.

The utility commission must approve the sale — a vote scheduled for Jan. 10.

Read the Rest of the Story in The Union

 

FCC Map Probe Draws Hill Praise

— Lawmakers are voicing support for the FCC’s decision to investigate whether major carriers overstated their wireless coverage. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, said Monday she is “pleased” the agency is taking “additional steps necessary to address their flawed maps.” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), another Commerce member, said it’s “absolutely critical that the Commission remains focused on ensuring that our limited universal service funds are effectively and accurately targeted to areas that lack unsubsidized 4G LTE service.”

— The background: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Friday that a preliminary review “suggested significant violations” of the agency’s rules regarding the maps, as Margaret reported for Pro . “We must ensure that the data is accurate before we can proceed,” Pai said. Mobility Fund Phase II will provide up to $4.53 billion in support for rural wireless broadband expansion across the country over the next 10 years.

Actions speak louder than words, to repeat an often used phrase.  Fixing the mapping problem is not going to be easy. The biggest gaps in the maps are in rural areas, outside the urban that now have broadband.  How to survey these gaps is a real challenge.

RCRC: December Broadband Update

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), who is set to be Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in the 116th Congress, is standing by his proposal to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fix its broadband mapping data. Senator Wicker announced last week he would push language in an upcoming spending bill that would require the FCC to consider the concerns of senators from rural states who argue the FCC’s mapping data misrepresents broadband coverage in rural America.

It is uncertain whether Congress will allow Senator Wicker’s language to pass, but the FCC is likely to heed the concerns of the incoming Chairman of the Committee with direct oversight of the Commission.

Microsoft President Brad Smith announced this week that Microsoft will lead a new effort to bring broadband to rural California. Smith announced in a press release that Microsoft is expanding its “Airband Initiative” into new states, including California. Through the Airband Initiative, Microsoft partners with internet service providers leveraging a mix of innovative broadband solutions, including TV white spaces, to deliver high-speed internet coverage for rural areas. Microsoft founded the program in 2017 with the goal to bring broadband to 2 million rural Americans without internet access.

Source RCRC Barbed Wire Newsletter

Growing Interest in Telehealth?  Problem who pays for it?

This week I came across several articles on Telehealth, two with different points of view. The links are below:

Comstock’s: The Doctor Is (Logged) In

The rise of telehealth targets rural patients and preventative medicine.

https://www.comstocksmag.com/longreads/doctor-logged-0#comment-2655

POTs and PANs: The Slow Growth of Telemedicine

One of the most hoped-for benefits of rural broadband has been the use of telemedicine to conduct routine doctor visits via a broadband connection rather than requiring rural patients to drive to cities for a doctor’s visit. However, the use of telemedicine hasn’t grown as fast as once predicted.

https://potsandpansbyccg.com/2018/12/04/the-slow-growth-of-telemedicine/

In the early 2000s Intel developed some interesting telehealth devices and after exploring the market sold off the development unit, as they could not identify how and who was going to pay for in-home health monitoring. They approached the government and were rebuffed, same response from the medical insurance companies. Unable to find a source of revenue for its telehealth products Intel abandoned the in-home health monitoring market.

More insight at the Rural Health Webinar below:

https://ruraleconomytechnology.com/2018/12/06/upcoming-rural-health-webinar-december-13/