NTIA is Looking for Broadband Mapping Comments

ALL OVER THE MAP: NTIA wants the public to weigh in by July 16 with ideas on how to ensure the federal government is accurately measuring the number of Americans connected to the internet, David Redl, head of the Commerce Department agency, wrote Wednesday in a blog post : “We want to know how the government can better identify areas that need broadband investments, so that we can be sure any taxpayer funds supporting broadband infrastructure achieve the goal of ensuring connectivity to all Americans.” NTIA is returning to work on broadband mapping (after handing off its stewardship of the National Broadband Map to the FCC a few years back) and recently secured $7.5 million in funding for those efforts.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

According to the Federal Register:

Written comments may be submitted by email to mappingrfc@ ntia.doc.gov. Written comments may also be submitted by mail to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 4887, Attn: Douglas Kinkoph, Associate Administrator, Washington, DC 20230. For more instructions about submitting comments, see the ‘‘Instructions for Commenters’’ section of SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

Extract of Federal Register with Instructions for Submitting Comments:fr-05302018-rfc-improving-broadband-data

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Andy Spurgeon, tel.: (720) 389–4900, email: aspurgeon@ntia.doc.gov, or Tim Moyer, tel.: (202) 482–6423, email: tmoyer@ntia.doc.gov, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 4725, Washington, DC 20230. Please direct media inquiries to NTIA’s Office of Public Affairs, (202) 482–7002, or at press@ntia.doc.gov.

I am working on my comments for submission by 16 July, based on my GCBC mapping experiences and development of a Raspberry Pi Broadband Recorder, which is a data driven appraoch to validating broadband maps.

Raspberry Pi BB Recorder

Sen Manchin, Makes Wise Mapping Decision

The FCC says Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) can challenge its decision to exclude some areas of his state from subsidies to expand mobile broadband. The Mobility Fund auction will award $4.53 billion to companies to offer service in rural areas, but the FCC said some communities already have adequate service and are thus ineligible for the funding. Manchin, though, says he wants to do his testing to prove the agency got it wrong about coverage in his state. “We conclude that there is good cause for granting the requested waiver,” the FCC said in an order Friday, citing Manchin’s “long record of engagement” on wireless issues in West Virginia.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Smart move by the Senator. “Manchin, though, says he wants to do his testing to prove the agency got it wrong about coverage in his state.”

If the FCC is relying on the Broadband Maps to make their coverage decision, there is a high probability they will be wrong every time. The maps are not accurate; they are based on claims made by the providers and not ground truth reality. Early in the development of the CA Broadband maps, the Gold Country Broadband Consortia demonstrated the coverage maps were not connected to the real world. More details HERE and HERE.

The FCC was equally wise to grant the waiver request; they also know how inaccurate the broadband maps are, and what Senator Manchin’s test would reveal.

The real solution is in the field testing. Here is my answer to field testing, up to 100 Mbps.

Raspberry Pi BB Recorder
DIY Raspberry Pi low-cost broadband recorder 


Wave Tri Display
Graphic analysis os recorder box file

Hat Creek RV Park Broadband

Hat Creek Store
Hat Creek Store, Author with Fynn

Last week Ellen and I with two other couples spent eight days at the Hat Creek Hereford Ranch RV Park, located in rural Shasta County.  It is next door to the Hat Creek Observatory which is searching for signals from extraterrestrial intelligence and other science-related projects involving Cube Sats.  More details on the science activities are at the SRI Interventions Website.  We spent one afternoon visiting the observatory, which is remotely operated from Silicon Valley via a fiber optic network.


The Steele family has been camping at Hat Creek RV Park for over 32 years, first in tents and then in our Airstream Trailer starting in 2002.  Our first trip to Hat Creek was in the winter to a surplus equipment auction at the Observatory, which was hosting the Millimeter Array at the time. I need a 19-inch rack for an amateur radio astronomy observatory I was building in my Nevada County backyard.  I ended up bidding on two racks and arranged to come pick them up in the spring.  Our first camping trip was in the spring a few days after the campground opened on the 15th of April.  We camped in a tent and woke up to 3 inches of snow on the camp table, with a frozen water faucet. 

As home to the Millimeter Array Hat Creek Observatory was in an old volcanic caldera with an RF quiet zone, no radio, TV or cell phone access.  There is still very limited cell phone access at the RV Camp it is in a “No Service Dead Zone”  If there is an emergency, the Camp Ground has a Frontier Communication Telephone Booth next to the woodpile behind the Store.

Even though there was no cellphone coverage, we were not without communications. The Camp Ground has excellent WiFi coverage. Which is a vast improvement over some of the first WiFI services at the RV Park, when it was first installed you had to be within 20 feet of the building to get a signal?  Now there is 2 bar service all over the campground. Three bars at sites near the store. We used SMS text to coordinate our group activities and meal planning.  We all had excellent access to the Internet, even on the weekend when the park had more visitors and the system slowed for short periods as traffic increased.

Hat Creek Lake
Hat Creek RV Park Lake

I did a speed test, and the download speed hovered around 11.5 Mbps, with about 1.5 Mbps upload speed at 3 PM. The ping time was 45 ms to a Reno server.  Overall we had excellent broadband service in the RV Park.  We even did a phone call via WiFi on Ellen’s AT&T Cellphone, and it worked once the figured how to get passed all the AT&T legalize over the 911 location limits when calling on WiFi.  I wonder if Artificial Intelligence could write a better explanation than human lawyers?

It was a pleasant surprise to find good broadband in rural Shasta County. 

City Centric 60 Ghz WiFi?


Facebook’s been talking Terragraph since way back during its 2016 F8 keynote. The social media giant’s ambitious plan to bring fast Wi-Fi to cities is taking another key step toward real world trials with the addition of Qualcomm. The chipmaking giant announced today that it will add the 60Ghz tech to its future chipsets, with plans to start trials in the middle of next year.

More HERE.

Looks like competition for 5G networks to me. Does not looking like technology that is compatible rural broadband requirements.

Good News for Rural Broadband

Ammendment #31 of Farm Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul A. Gosar D.D.S. (AZ-04), Western Caucus Member Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at CTIA Kelly Cole, and President and CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association Jonathan Adelstein released the following statements after Congressman LaMalfa’s amendment to H.R. 2 – which would streamline the permitting process for rural broadband infrastructure – passed the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by unanimous voice vote: 

Congressman Doug LaMalfa said: “Broadband coverage in rural areas has been a challenge for quite some time. As providers build newer infrastructure to support 5G services, it will require more antennas spaced more closely together. While wireless providers generally locate antennas and facilities on private property, they also require access to Federal land to ensure more complete coverage, including for providing emergency services. Unfortunately, the process for securing access to federal land and property has been problematic – providers have faced long delays and uncertain procedures. My bipartisan amendment aims to streamline this process and help bring better broadband coverage to Rural America, and I thank my colleagues for the unanimous support.”

This is good news.  The town of Washington was unable to get broadband access due to Forest Service resistance to putting a relay receiver and transmitter on National Forest Land, even though this was the very best location. SEDCorp and GCBC met several times with the Forest Service and the administrative obstacles they presented were huge. I hope this amendment will make it through the Senate.

When Will California Get an FCC Digital Divide Tour?

PAI HEADS SOUTH — FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will spend this week traveling across Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia as part of his push to highlight efforts to close the “digital divide.” Here’s his schedule for the week:

— Monday: Pai visits a telemedicine facility in Richmond and a Virginia farm.

— Tuesday: The chairman meets with North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and local business leaders in Raleigh, and participates in a connected school event.

— Wednesday: Pai heads to Charlotte to speak at a Wireless Infrastructure Association event. He’s also slated to meet with local business leaders and tour a school.

— Thursday: Pai travels to rural South Carolina, where he’ll chat with local officials and discuss efforts to narrow the digital divide.

— Friday: The FCC head rounds off his southern tour by joining Rep. Doug Collins for a roundtable discussion in Georgia.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

The question is has FCC Chairman Ajit Pai been invited to visit California so he has some first-hand knowledge of our Digital Divide?  Who should issue that invitation?

Disappointment and Time for Action

Congressman LaMalfa’s Newsletter came in my email this morning and I was instantly disappointed. His opening paragraph:
Dear Friend,

Last week was National Infrastructure Week, but there were no parades or celebrations of America’s infrastructure system this year. The truth is, we’re lagging far behind where we should be, and we must do something about it. Rural America faces many unique infrastructure challenges. Dilapidated roads, crumbling bridges, and battered levees and dams litter the country from coast to coast, and Northern California is no exception.

Broadband is critical infrastructure and there are 100s of citizens in the Congressman’s District that cannot get access to this critical infrastructure. I sent the Congressman the following Email:

Dear Congressman LaMalfa

In your discussions of infrastructure deficiencies, please include the lack of broadband access. In your most recent newsletter discussing infrastructure issues, you ignored broadband access. FCC Commissioners have been touring rural locations to observed the rural broadband challenges. You should invite some to visit the Sierra Counties and see the challenges that we face in obtaining broadband access, a powerful economic development tool for rural communities. I examine and report on the rural broadband issue on my Rural Economy Technology blog — https://ruraleconomytechnology.com Please share this link with your staff and colleagues.

I have communicated with Congressman LaMalfa and his staff about broadband issues in the past and they have given positive responses, but somehow broadband is not considered critical infrastructure in their minds. This is most unfortunate as the political muscle needed to ensure that all rural citizens have broadband access will be missing when budgets are drawn and public policy is made.

Rural electrification was not possible without government assistance, as the ROI for commercial power companies was not evident. It took government assistance to bring electricity to the farms and ranches of America. It is going to take similar assistance to bring broadband to rural California and other rural states. It is important that our congressional representatives understand this fact.
Let Congressman LaMalfa and Congressman McClintock know that you are expecting their support for public policy and budget carveouts for rural broadband. Make sure they know you consider broadband part of America’s critical infrastructure.

LaMalfa Contact Page: https://lamalfa.house.gov/contact
McClintock Contact Page: https://mcclintock.house.gov/contact

Another FCC Road Trip: Not to Sierra

Today, Michael Janson, deputy director of the FCC’s rural broadband auctions task force, makes a stop in South Charleston, West Virginia, to talk internet connectivity with local policymakers and lawmakers. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) also expects to be there. She’s been pushing the FCC to set aside funding in the FCC’s upcoming Mobility Fund auctions for mountainous or tough-to-serve areas like her home state.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

When will the FCC have a Sierra road trip to see some rougher to serve areas? Heads Up for the staff in Congressman La Malfa Office, we need a visit from the FCC to make sure they understand the Sierra challenges.

Census Block Broadband Hostages

by Russ Steele

Sample Census Block
Red service denied, green service to 50Mbits

As the warm spring sun was setting over the Pacific Coast Range, the last rays were glinting off the end of the Comcast Aluminum Coax which was a little over 300 yards from my Mother’s porch. Too far away for a connection, said Comcast.  From that same porch, you could see the phone line swooping across the canyon tugging at the sugar pine where it was attached, before making its way through the woods and across the NID ditch and then down Banner Lava Cap to the AT&T distribution box just outside the gate at the Elisabeth George Water Plant. An old distribution box that was never upgraded to provide DSL service while we lived in the neighborhood. Every time we saw a tech at the box, we stop to ask when would it be upgraded?  Next year was always the answer.  The phone line to our house came from the same distribution box.

Desperate for some broadband beyond a dial-up modem, I purchased ISDN which was an improvement, but only good for email, browsing was way too slow to maintain some sanity. Our first break came when Comcast offered us 10 Mbps broadband. 

It was only the kindness of a cable installation technician that we even had cable.  We lived on the edge of the housing development, which was getting a cable upgrade.  Ellen was coming home after picking our daughter from school; a cable lift truck was blocking entry into our long driveway and my wife Ellen got out to chat with the technician.  How long was he going to be blocking the driveway? 

As the tech continued to work securing the cable, Ellen expressed interest in having cable TV, but we were not in the development. No problem said the tech; we can fix that, give me a little more time.  She turned around and went to visit my mother for a couple of hours and when she returned the shiny aluminum coax came all the way down our driveway. Years later we were blessed with 10 Mbps of broadband, which I upgrade to 25 Mbps after a few years. Before we moved to Lincoln, Comcast upgraded our 25Mbps to 50Mbps at no increased cost.

When the Federal Broadband Map was published I looked at our Census Block, and it was listed having Gigabit access, but the fastest I can get from Comcast was 50Mbps.  My Mother, Aunts Hazel, Aunt Dorthy her son Tom all lived in separate houses on adjoining property, and they could not get cable or DSL.  An LA Architect bought three acres and built a 2,500 square foot “cabin in the woods” planning to work from the cabin in the summer when his wife was not teaching dance in LA schools.

He was not a happy homeowner when he discovered that AT&T nor Comcast would provide him a broadband connection, and Smarter Broadband could not make a line of sight wireless connection, due to the interfering terrain. His dream of summers in the Nevada County woods, far from the hectic bustle of LA was dashed. He could not get any broadband coverage. Even the satellite guy turned him down due trees on a neighbors property block the view of the southern sky.  He could see the Comcast cable from his front door, but it was too far for a connection. His phone line was from the AT&T distribution box that was never upgraded before AT&T stopped selling DSL.   

Under the rules controlling the distribution or rural broadband funds, the broadband infrastructure was ineligible for an upgrade. The census block was listed as having Gigabit service, without regard to families that were unable to get a connection.  This is a problem in many rural areas, people can see the Cable, but it is more than 300 feet from the cable to the home. Cable companies impose the 300-foot limit due to cable loss over a greater distance.

My story is just one example of how the Federal and California broadband maps fail to reflect the real world. Yet, policy and funding decisions are made using these inaccurate maps. Potential broadband customers are held hostage by inaccurate maps and a failed infrastructure.