Sierra Includes Connect America Fund Eligible Areas

The FCC has put out an updated map that identifies census block groups that are eligible for the CAF II Auction (Auction 93). The auction will use competitive building to allocate up to $1.98 billion of support over the next 10 years in high-cost rural areas.

Chairman Pai of the FCC has taken steps to advance parts of his digital empowerment agency to advance broadband in America under the Trump Administration. In February the FCC voted to adopt rules for the upcoming Mobility Fund Phase II auction and the Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II auction. Pai has also established a task force to oversee these two auctions to help them progress forward. The Connect America Phase II auction will focus on two areas within the country to reach the policy outcome to try and achieve broadband across America. These areas include where the incumbent telephone company declined an earlier offer of universal service subsides and that are deemed extremely costly to serve, based on a FCC-developed cost model.

These areas are being auctioned due to the need to find ways to incent the private market to serve them. Some form of financial subsidy is necessary to entice these companies to serve these areas. Communities have the opportunity to identify demand for services and make that known to potential service providers.

H/T to Utah Broadband Outreach

The gold colored census blocks on this map are potential auction areas.

FCC Auntion Areas

The question is are any of the incumbent telcos interested in bidding for these areas?

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A Tale of Two Grant Programs

This is an interesting read at Pots and Pans

It’s my understanding that the California grant legislation started out with good intentions but got hijacked by the ever-present telecom lobbyists in the legislature. The original sponsors of the grant asked the governor to veto the bill, but for some reason it’s gone ahead. Instead of an effective grant program that will help rural areas get real broadband, the California CASF is instead going to be a state version of the FCC’s CAF II program that also funnel money to the large incumbent telcos to make marginal improvements to broadband. The new CASF is one of the worst uses of tax dollars that I can imagine – it will enrich the bottom line of the telcos without making any significant improvements in rural broadband.

Blackburn Eyeing Broadband Markup

House Energy and Commerce lawmakers aim to mark up some of the 25 broadband deployment measures that the telecom subcommittee considered in its Tuesday hearing, subpanel Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) tells John. “We want this as bipartisan as we can make it” and are “trying to get it done sooner rather than later,” she said, without giving a timeframe. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) called many of the GOP measures, which would reduce barriers to deployment, “window dressing.” But other Democrats showed interest in tackling the red-tape issues identified by Republicans and say they want the bills to move soon.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

No Broadband in the Trump State of the Union

I watched President Trump’s State of the Union address last night, paying close attention to his words on infrastructure and did not hear any mention of our telecommunication infrastructure and the need for improvements. Here are his words on infrastructure:

As we rebuild our industries, it is also time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just one year—is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?

I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.

Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.

Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment—to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.

Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process—getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.

Together, we can reclaim our building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.

I would be more comfortable if he had mentioned the need to improve the nation’s telecommunication infrastructure, especially rural broadband.

House Energy and Commerce Telcom Subcommittee Hearing

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s telecom subcommittee turns a closer eye to broadband infrastructure with a hearing this morning with witnesses representing cable, telecom and rural broadband. “We wanted to have a very inclusive hearing today to discuss all of the ideas from Subcommittee members on both sides of the aisle to promote broadband infrastructure deployment with a goal of closing the digital divide,” subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) will say, according to prepared remarks. “Whether you agree or disagree with any individual idea, it is so important that we get the conversation started.” The subcommittee is due to review 25 broadband-related bills that address everything from precision agriculture to community-based broadband.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

A list of hearing Witnesses with links to their written statements is HERE.

 

 

The Federal Government Shouldn’t Build a 5G Network

The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal on Government control of communications networks:

National security officials reportedly are considering federal funding and construction of a faster, higher capacity nationwide wireless network to counter a similar effort by the Chinese government. But expanding government interference in telecommunications would not advance national security or technological innovation.

[…]

Those in the administration considering such a policy ought to abide the lessons of history.

That is, government intervention in telecommunications has been a major factor for America trailing Asian and European nations in deployment of the most advanced wireless and broadband technologies. Political and regulatory processes always trail the pace of technological change.

A government network, protected from competition, would also be immune from the financial pressures that drive private firms to innovate and maximize efficiency.

Moreover, a government-designed system directs resources into favored technologies, which impedes both competition and innovation.

The federal government shouldn’t be set loose to seize private property to site a new network under the guise of national security. The loss of property rights could, arguably, pose a greater long-term threat to liberty than China’s 5G network.

News of the National Security Council proposal met with swift opposition from Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who (wisely) stated:

I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network. The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades—including American leadership in 4G—is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment.

[…]

Read the rest of the article HERE.  Of interest is China’s role in providing equipment to networks the government is trying to secure.  Buying critical network components from China is a huge opportunity for Chinees Intelligence to bake in a digital trojan horse in this hardware.

GAO Turns To Tribal Spectrum

Acting on a request from the leadership of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the Government Accountability Office is starting a review of the challenges facing Indian tribes in getting access to wireless spectrum, a GAO spokesman told MT. Lawmakers made the original request back in 2016, seeking information on an FCC bidding credit program meant to improve broadband deployment on tribal land. They also requested an analysis of the National Broadband Map, noting that tribes say it doesn’t always accurately reflect internet availability on their lands. “Wireless technologies are essential to economic development, public safety, education, and health care, but Tribal communities remain critically underserved,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who joined the request when he became vice chairman of the panel.

Source: Politico Morning Tech

Senator Tom Udall makes some points that are important to rural communities that do not have access to broadband. “Wireless technologies are essential to economic development, public safety, education, and healthcare…” It is not only tribal land that has problems with the National Broadband Map, there are significant problems in the Sierra as well. The maps are based on advertised coverage, not the actual coverage that exists in the real world.

Summary of House Broadband Legislation

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has added more bills and witnesses to the agenda for Tuesday’s hearing on broadband infrastructure. The 20-plus pieces of proposed legislation on deck for discussion summarized here in a GOP staff memo

http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF16/20180130/106810/HHRG-115-IF16-20180130-SD002-U2.pdf

Source: Politico Morning Tech

US Government Considering Nationalizing G5 Networks

Washington (CNN)The US government is considering a federal takeover of portions of the country’s mobile broadband networks, according to documents obtained by Axios.

A National Security Council official presented senior members of the Trump administration and other agencies with information suggesting that the United States needs to centralize its 5G network by the end of President Donald Trump’s first term as a safeguard against Chinese cybersecurity and economic threats, according to the documents.
In a PowerPoint presentation and memo obtained by Axios, two options were suggested: have the American government pay for and build a network, or have wireless providers build their own 5G networks.
Government control of 5G infrastructure would be unprecedented. The memo Axios obtained compared the nationalization of 5G to “the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System.”

Source: CNN

I am not sure this would be beneficial for rural broadband. The planed millimeter-wave G5 is not the best technology for rural Sierra applications, too many trees, hills, and valleys.  Having the government in control of a technology with some severe limitations does not bode well for rural broadband.

Update 01-28-18 A Plan To Nationalize 5G?

Trump administration officials are weighing a plan to nationalize the country’s next-generation 5G wireless network in response to the threat of Chinese spying, Axios reports . According to the report, the proposal, from a senior official on the National Security Council, floats the idea of the U.S. government building one centralized 5G network, instead of leaving it to competing wireless providers. We’re thinking companies like AT&T and Verizon, which are making massive investments in 5G, would have some thoughts on this, as would FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who’s focused most of his tenure on getting government out of the way of industry. Reuters, citing a senior administration official, adds that “the option was being debated at a low level in the administration and was six to eight months away from being considered by the president himself.”

Source; Politico Morning Tech

Is 5G a Feasible Sierra Broadband Solution?

The cable industry, Arris, and CableLabs have been doing some testing of the proposed G5 frequency spectrum. The test result outline some of the challenges broadband providers face in deploying 5G services, including dealing with trees and other foliage.

Terrain and Foliage Masking

One of the highlights of living in rural Sierra counties is the plethora of trees that surround our homes and businesses. These trees we enjoy provide some real line of sight (LOS) deployment challenges for 5G providers. How significant are these challenges? According to the report, the problems are substantial for those providers using millimeter-wave distribution systems. AT&T and Verizon have spent billions to acquire millimeter spectrum and are planning to use that spectrum for G5 broadband distribution.

In its 37 GHz tests, CableLabs found that speeds decreased to around 200 Mbps at 150 feet if signals have to travel through foliage – and those figures slow to below 100 Mbps at 150 feet in dense foliage.
Rain, snow, and wind can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of millimeter wave transmissions. “The impact of deciduous and conifer trees (under gusty wind conditions) suggest that the leaf density from the conifer more frequently produces heavy link losses and these, more so at higher carrier frequencies,”

Folage Attenuation
So far we have only looked at foliage impacts. The Sierra landscape is one of hills and valleys. That rolling terrain makes the line of sight communication extremely difficult. While the top of a hill can be good distribution points, the next hill across the valley creates a shadow for the millimeter wave signal. Also, millimeter-wave beamforming antenna has some distance limitations measured in feet. The distance from hilltop to the end user in a rural setting will often exceed those limitations. Millimeter-wave distribution is better suited to urban environments were the transmission devices and be placed on light poles and other existing infrastructure close to the end user.
In the tree covered hill and valleys of the Sierra Whitespace TV proposed by Microsoft offer some advantages over 5G millimeter-wave distribution. As the report concludes:

We have come a long way in the drive to 5G — but as the saying goes — there is still a long way to go.

Note: The cable industry report discusses many complex details not covered in this short report on foliage and terrain impacts on 5G distribution in the Sierra and deserves a complete and detailed read by community broadband advocates and those opposed to G5 implementation. The full report: 2017-can-a-fixed-wireless-last-100m-connection-really-compete-with-a-wired-connection-.