Taking FCC Frustrations To Government Funding: FCC Mapping Flaws

— Bipartisan interest is growing on Capitol Hill in using a year-end funding bill to force the FCC to take stock of the accuracy of its broadband data. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is leading the effort, as John reported Thursday . “I’ll be very frank: I’m going to try to stick something on the spending bill to make the FCC take another look at this,” said Wicker, the likely incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in the new year. He called the FCC’s mapping “fatally flawed.”

— And count Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in, too . Tester “would certainly be interested in addressing this issue during the appropriations process,” a spokeswoman said. Although Wicker has broad support in his frustrations, hitching an amendment could still be a heavy lift. Government funding expires Dec. 7, which gives Wicker and his allies little time to try to slip that in. Either way, Wicker tells John he plans to stay focused on his FCC frustrations as Commerce chair: “I would want to look at a way to get an accurate measurement so that we can distribute $4.5 billion in a way that’s meaningful.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech


In Moden Life Communications are Essential

Below is an article from Nape County Valley Register, which learned a vital lesson during the latest fire emergency – Communications Vital. This is a lesson that all Sierra Counties could learn from. [My bold]

Napa County wants reliable cellphone and broadband Internet service available everywhere within its borders and to keep these services running during emergencies such as last year’s wildfires.

“Access to information—we really do need to treat it as a basic human need,” Supervisor Belia Ramos said. “We need to treat it the same as water. We need to treat it the same as electricity, heat, garbage service.”

Other supervisors agreed.

“The carriers tell the state, the regulatory authority, ‘95 percent coverage,’” Supervisor Diane Dillon said. “We know that’s not true. But to prove it, you have to prove they’re wrong. We have to pay for mapping.”

She doesn’t want communication dark holes in the county.

“Our goal here is to have this kind of access be like landline access was treated in the 1930s.” Dillon said. “Everyone should have it.”

The county has identified nine priority areas that could benefit from new fiber and cellular infrastructure. They are Browns Valley, American Canyon, Wild Horse Valley Road, Rim Rock, Monticello, Oakville, St. Helena, Pope Valley and Calistoga.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a $100,000 maximum contract with Magellan Advisors to do a fiber infrastructure engineering assessment study.

Even cities can face challenges. Ramos said she lives in suburban American Canyon. She can have only one Internet provider because fiber doesn’t run on her street. Fiber wasn’t installed on the last three blocks of her neighborhood.

Last year, Napa County found out how an emergency can wreak havoc with modern communications, just when the services are needed the most.

During the Atlas, Partrick and Tubbs fires of 2017, County emergency officials used Nixle to communicate with the public. Yet a survey of 2,000 residents found 87 percent lost cell service, 73 percent lost Internet service and 67 percent lost land-line service.

Many of those emergency Nixle messages during the early hours of the fires warning of evacuations and danger disappeared into a void. A report by the North Bay/North Coast Broadband Consortium documented the frustration that some people felt because of the information blackout.

“We never received any type of alerts that would tell us what was happening,” one resident near the Partrick fire said in the report. “Nixle is fine, as long as there is cell service and internet.”

The October 2017 wildfires destroyed or damaged more than 340 cell tower sites in the region, a county report said. Discussions in the aftermath arose about having such things as battery backups on towers or bringing in mobile towers to replace damaged ones.

Napa County is working on communications issues as part of the North Bay/North Coast Broadband Consortium along with Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties.


This is in sharp contrast to Nevada City which is fighting to keep poor cell service in the city.  Verizon wanted to improve the Cell Service and the City Council refused to allow the installation of the antenna required to provide the better service. The Nevada City Council needs to learn for the Napa experience.  And, maybe the Paradice experience, we will have to wait for the after action reports.

Rural Americans Are Rebooting The Spirit Of The Internet

BACK IN THE early 1930s, farmers couldn’t get wired. The big-city electric utilities claimed that delivering power to customers spread out in rural areas wasn’t profitable. So eventually the locals rolled up their sleeves and did it themselves. They formed electric co-ops and strung their own damn wires, aided by cheap federal loans. Today there are nearly 900 rural co-ops still providing their communities with electricity. A DIY success story!

Now history repeats itself—with broadband. Thirty-nine percent of rural Americans had no access to home broadband in 2016 (compared with 4 percent of folks in urban areas), because big telcos say it’s too expensive to build affordable fiber-optic broadband in the countryside. Residents have to make do with dialup or Wi-Fi from a library.

So co-ops are solving the problem again. In rural Oklahoma, for example, the Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative recently laid 2,497 miles of fiber-optic cable—a feat that required blasting through some bedrock—to launch its broadband Bolt Fiber Optic Services. Today Bolt serves almost 9,000 members, offering gigabit connections for less than you’d pay for comparable service in a city.

Read the rest of the Article HERE.
We need more of this in the Sierra. Waiting for the major providers is a losing game.  If small communities want broadband they are better off to build it and manage it, free from corporate manipulation.

CA Economic Summit: Resilient rural communities built on upgraded infrastructure, faster broadband for all

The ability to purchase a home is vital to the foundation of a thriving community. As Chair of the Golden State Finance Authority (GSFA), I have seen firsthand the benefits that homeownership affords California’s local communities. GSFA has supported affordable homeownership in California for over two decades, providing homeownership programs featuring competitive interest rates and down payment assistance.

Over the past 25 years, GSFA has helped more than 74,800 individuals and families purchase homes and provided over $537 million in down payment assistance, as well as provided financing for over 30,000 residential or commercial energy efficiency projects.

While GSFA is doing its part to expand access to affordable homeownership in the state, homeownership alone does not constitute a thriving community. Every community needs jobs for its residents and a solid infrastructure platform on which to build its local economy. In 2018, it is vital that such an infrastructure platform include not only high-functioning traditional infrastructure such as water, sewer, and transportation systems, but also a robust broadband network that is accessible to all.

Working through its affiliate organization, the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), GSFA has identified a number of industry-specific areas of focus for their economic development strategy in California’s rural counties, including broadband and infrastructure. RCRC’s economic development team is working with a network of economic development professionals in RCRC’s 36 member counties to support and catalyze programs and projects that result in job and investment generation.

Rural Broadband Deployment

High-speed broadband deployment in rural California is one of the most critical missing infrastructure components. Its absence often precludes unserved and underserved communities from participating in the 21st century economy. High-speed broadband provides essential benefits by allowing increased economic and trade opportunities for small to medium-sized businesses, access to medical care (telehealth/telemedicine) and educational opportunities, and enhanced public safety – improving overall quality of life. Speed of commerce service is a critical step in the development of strong rural communities.


Many communities in rural California are in desperate need of infrastructure upgrades to better serve their residents and businesses, but don’t have the resources, financial or otherwise, to research, apply, and implement these upgrades. These projects include improvements to water, transportation, and community facilities infrastructure. Innovative funding options and other programs that allow for project pooling and access to multiple funding sources that may reduce existing barriers to entry for rural communities must be identified.

The source is HERE. [Emphasis added]

Microsoft Airband Partner Added in Northwest, Aims to Reach 73K with Fixed Wireless


Microsoft Airband Partner

Through the partnership, Native Network will provide affordable, hybrid, fixed-wireless broadband internet access, including TV White Spaces, to tribes within Flathead Reservation in Montana as well as Lummi Nation and Swinomish Tribe in Washington.

The announcement is one of several Microsoft has announced recently to expand broadband in rural areas:

Microsoft plans to bring services to about 126,700 previously unserved people in rural communities in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota, through a partnership with Network Business Systems.

The company partnered with Agile Networks and Airband to offer high-speed broadband to 110,000 people in rural Ohio.

Microsoft provided start-up funding to U.S. companies Numbers4Health; Skylark Wireless; Cy Wireless and Tribal Digital Village and four other companies.

“Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century and is critical for farmers, small-business owners, health-care practitioners, educators and students to thrive in today’s digital economy,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith, in a prepared statement.“The partnership with Native Network will help close the digital divide in rural Montana and Washington, bringing access to approximately 73,500 people within and around the tribal communities.”

Read more HERE.

SpaceX Starlink Projected Latency vs. My Wave Cable Latency

SpaceX is claiming it’s Starlink latency will be similar to cable latency.

“Because of the low orbits, SpaceX says its broadband network will have latencies as low as 25ms, similar to cable or fiber systems.”

Network latency is an expression of how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another. Latency is measured by sending a packet of data that is returned to the sender; the round-trip time is considered the latency. This is called pinging.

I have a data file of recorded ping data from my Wave connection from October 25th to November 8th, so thought I would make a comparison.   A simple Python program produced this graphic:

Screenshot 2018-11-17 14.29.22

The median ping was 33.87. If Starlink can maintain 25ms of latency, they will be better than my cable connection.

SpaceX Low Latency Starlink Swarm

SpaceX received FCC approval to deploy 7,518 broadband satellites, in addition to the 4,425 satellites that were approved eight months ago. That amounts to 11,943 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service.


The newly approved satellites would use frequencies between 37.5 and 42GHz for space-to-Earth transmissions and frequencies between 47.2 and 51.4GHz for Earth-to-space transmissions, the FCC said.

SpaceX’s initial 4,425 satellites are expected to orbit at altitudes of 1,110km to 1,325km, a fraction of the altitude of traditional broadband satellites. Because of the low orbits, SpaceX says its broadband network will have latencies as low as 25ms, similar to cable or fiber systems. SpaceX has also said it will provide gigabit speeds and that it will provide broadband access worldwide. No word on data caps or cost of access.  It is high latency, data caps and high cost that makes current satellite broadband so undesirable.

FCC rules require the launch of 50 percent of satellites within six years of authorization and all of them within nine years unless a waiver is granted.

While all this sounds positive for rural families and business seeking broadband access the deployments schedule and orbits will determine the access. Low satellites will pass overhead rapidly only providing a small window of access if another satellite does not pick up the signal and continue the connection. While low latency is good it does not mean much if there is no access window. This is area for more exploration. Stay Tuned.

A portion of this report was adapted from this Arstechnica article.

New Senate Broadband Legislation

— Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) joined Thursday to introduce a rural broadband bill, the ACCESS Rural America Act, aimed at helping small telecom companies escape certain Securities and Exchange Commission filing requirements. The legislation would raise the number of investors that prompts some of these obligations. “Unfortunately, rural telecom companies are getting hit with disclosure costs that were never intended for them,” said Baldwin.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

AT&T FirstNet Report

FirstNet has kept first responders connected through hurricanes Florence and Michael, and more

More than 3,600 public safety agencies across the country have now joined FirstNet. That’s a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of agencies subscribing to the nationwide wireless communications ecosystem in less than 2 months.

That accounts for more than 250,000 connections on FirstNet. And first responders from federal, state, local and tribal public safety agencies are continuing to turn to FirstNet for the communications tools they need – especially during emergencies and large events.

Read more HERE.


SpaceX Changes Its Starlink Internet Satellite Plans to Minimize Space Junk

starlink_graphicSpaceX has amended its plan to built out an array of internet-providing, Starlink satellites. Most recently, the company requested that a portion of its constellation of spacecraft be placed at a lower altitude to avoid creating any unnecessary space junk.

That’s according to a new application filed with the Federal Communications Commission on November 9, which requested that 1,584 of its satellites be placed 550 kilometers above the Earth’s surface instead of the originally planned 1,150 km. SpaceX maintains that this would reduce the risk of adding to the already thousands of tons of floating space debris orbiting the planet.

“This modest modification to the SpaceX Authorization will slightly reduce the total number of spacecraft in the constellation, meet all required protection criteria for other systems operating in the same frequencies, and cause no overall increase in radio frequency interference,” stated the document.

Read more HERE.

ALSO: FCC BLASTS OFF — Brace yourself for space puns, FCC-watchers. The commission votes today on a slew of space-related items, including orders aimed at granting satellite companies access to the U.S. market to offer broadband services. Another order will authorize SpaceX to use more spectrum for its broadband satellite constellation. And the FCC will consider a rulemaking to update its regulations of “space debris.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech