The Census Could Undercount People Who Don’t Have Internet Access

Slate.com has the details:

There has been no shortage of debate about the upcoming census. For weeks, we had a steady stream of “will they or won’t they” as the White House, the courts, and advocates grappled with the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census form. But lost in this back-and-forth is another problem that could lead to the undercounting of the population of the United States, which would affect how billions in federal funds are distributed. It involves broadband.

For the first time in our history, the U.S. census will prioritize collecting responses online. In practice, this means that most households will get a letter in the mail directing them to fill out a form on a website. For households that do not respond, letters with paper forms may follow, and a census taker could eventually be sent to collect the data in person. But in light of the effort to increase internet responses, there will be a reduced effort to call on homes, knock on doors, and get responses in the mail. In fact, the Census Bureau has planned to hire 125,000 fewer staff members than during the last go-around 10 years ago, because it is counting on this online effort, in conjunction with local resources, to secure participation.
At first glance, this makes sense. In the digital age, wearing out shoe leather to survey the population seems more than a little antiquated. Plus, a technology-first approach will save scarce resources and better reflects how so many of us live our constantly connected lives. But it also creates a problem for communities without reliable access to broadband.

As a member of the Federal Communications Commission, I know too many Americans lack broadband at home. According to the agency’s official statistics, about 21 million Americans live in areas without high-speed service, the bulk of them in rural areas. However, the situation is worse than official numbers suggest. The method we use to count which households have internet access and which do not has a serious flaw. It assumes that if a single customer can get broadband in a census block, then service must be available throughout the entire block. As a result, official data significantly overstates the presence of broadband nationwide. In fact, a study found that as many as 162 million people across the United States do not use the internet at broadband speeds. The gap between 21 million and 162 million raises big questions about broadband coverage. It turns the digital divide into a chasm.

Continue reading HERE. [Emphasis added]

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AT&T Redlines Poor and Rural Californians – CPUC Study

Steve Blum has the detail in his blog post: AT&T redlines poor and rural Californians because it can, Frontier because it can’t afford otherwise, CPUC study says

Corporate choices made by AT&T and Verizon, and Frontier Communications’ dire financial condition created the growing divide between relatively modern telecoms infrastructure in affluent urban and suburban communities, and the decaying infrastructure in poor and rural ones. The result is “deteriorating service quality”, “persistent disinvestment”, an “investment focus on higher income communities” and an “increased focus on areas most heavily impacted by competition”, according to a study done for the California Public Utilities Commission by a Boston-based consulting company.

The report paints a contrasting picture of the corporate attitudes of AT&T and Frontier, but neither is flattering. The conclusions are, and should be, devastating for both companies. The report speaks for itself: Both AT&T California and Frontier…[are] in effect, disinvesting in infrastructure overall, and [the disinvestment is] most pronounced in the more rural and low-income service areas. AT&T has the financial resources to maintain and upgrade its wireline network in California, but has yet to do so. Frontier has a strong interest in pursuing such upgrades, but lacks the financial capacity to make the necessary investments.

Continue reading HERE  [Emphasis Added]

Nevada County Supervisors Approves Last-mile Broadband Grant

YubaNet has some details:

At Tuesday’s July 23rd Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board unanimously approved a contract with the Sierra Business Council (SBC) for the administration of the Last-Mile Broadband Grant program, a grant for the development and expansion of Broadband in Nevada County. The grant will be funded by what the County receives for transient occupancy tax (TOT), a tourism-related tax charged to travelers when they rent accommodations for less than 30 days.

[ . . . ]

“The $225,000 Last-Mile Broadband Grant is a pilot program to leverage County funds to support the development of Last-Mile Broadband infrastructure in the unincorporated areas of the County to promote economic development. Last-Mile refers to connecting the enduser or customer’s home or business to a local network provider. The development of Last-Mile transmission networks is the most cost prohibitive component of broadband expansion in Nevada County.

[ . . . ]

It is a 2019 Board Priority to support job-enhancing economic development with an emphasis on creating infrastructure and community partnerships with organizations such as SBC. During the meeting, the Board approved a total of $250,000 investment into economic development and broadband. Of that funding, $25,000 going towards SBC’s administration of the pilot grant program and $225,000 that will be available for the grant.

The full report is HERE.
It will be interesting to see how the Sierra Business Council leverages this one time grant of $225,000. The last mile is like apple pie, as everyone supports it. However, fiber to the home is bloody expensive, like Google and Verizon found out and shut down their fiber to the home programs as too costly.

Fiber to the home is expensive costing between $1200 to $1500 per household, excluding any electronics needed to make the connection. That is the cost per connection when the fiber is in the street, in rural neighborhoods, the driveways can be quarter of a mile long. The primary cost component is labor to dig the trenches and lay the fiber. Or, hang the fiber on existing poles, which introduces another cost, rent for the use the poles which belong to other companies.

An alternative approach is to use wireless technology for the last mile connection. Wireless technology was used by the Beckville Network to tap the VAST middle mile network. The estimate network cost for ten homes was $10,000. That is $1,000 per connection. More here. As it turns out, the tall trees are limiting the expansion of the network to cover more of the neighborhood, requiring major network upgrades and more cost. The final cost per home is still unknown.

The Sierra Business Council was preparing a Broadband Strategic Plan for Nevada County to be published in August according to Peter Brown, the project developer. It will be interesting to see how symbiotic the Strategic Plan and the Nevada County Economic Development Grant are.

It is not clear how SBC should spend the broadband economic development grant, nor what the success criteria will be? How will citizens know the $225,000 resulted in economic development? How many last-mile connections, and at what cost? And, what wireless technology will best serve the community, as there are last-mile technologies in the market that cannot provide, the FCC minimum speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.

Many of these questions could be answered when the Nevada County Broadband Strategic Plan is published. Stay Tuned.

RCRC: Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act

RCRC has conveyed its support to the Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act (Act), authored by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. The Act would overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s order and restore the authority of local governments to make important determinations regarding the siting of wireless facilities in their respective communities.

RCRC believes local officials are best equipped to assess the impacts of new telecommunication facilities on their residents. Federal policies that preempt the application review process and lessen discretion presents significant concerns to California’s rural counties. RCRC supports a regulatory framework that not only empowers local governments to determine the best pathway to viable broadband service in their communities, but also incentivizes broadband deployment to those rural areas that remain unserved and underserved.

RCRC’s support letter can be accessed here. Please contact Tracy Rhine, RCRC Legislative Advocate, at (916) 447-4806 or trhine@rcrcnet.org for more information.

 

In his report at Brookings on 5G Tom Wheeler, former FCC Commissioner identified local control as one of the five hidden issues here. He indicated that 5G would be slow coming to rural communities and the resort to local control would slow the process even more.  More on the local control issue here.

 

Space Needs to Be Regulated Before Humans Ruin It

By Greg Wyler for CNN Business Perspectives

My company, OneWeb, is focusing on what I believe is one of the world’s most pressing and fundamental issues: the need for equal access to the internet. The internet has become our economic lifeblood. And yet, nearly half the world’s population doesn’t have internet access.

Space is playing a crucial role in bridging this digital divide. OneWeb is launching 1,980 satellites to help bring internet access to people everywhere, and our first production satellites are already flying in space and have demonstrated very high download speeds.

Fiber and cable internet access technologies already permeate major cities where deployment is most financially viable. Similarly, these regions will also be the first to be served with 5G. Poor communities are the last to get connected, and without connectivity, those communities have no chance to lift themselves from poverty. OneWeb’s satellites will reach every community in the world and enable equal access to the internet for the world’s unserved and underserved.

Fifty years from the day when man first walked on the moon, we are still only approaching the possible. There will be tens of thousands of new satellites, space stations and manufacturing hubs in the coming years to bring advancements in communications, scientific research, monitoring the earth, exploring space and more.

This is exciting, but we must move carefully. The space environment around us is a pivotal resource for the future of humanity. Like our oceans and rainforests, space seems large, foreboding and infinitely strong. However, it turns out the low-earth orbit space environment is just as fragile as earth’s and, without carefully thinking it through, humanity can irreversibly destroy it — and fast.

Continue reading HERE.