If Broadband is Essential Infrastructure it Should be in the General Plan

In California, the General Plan is a document providing a long-range plan for a city’s and county’s physical development. Local jurisdictions have freedom as to what their general plans include, however, there are specific requirements under California state law that each general plan must meet; failure to do so could result in suspension of future development.

Each general plan must include the vision, goals, and objectives of the city or county in terms of planning and development within eight different “elements” defined by the state as: land use, housing, circulation, conservation, noise, safety, open space, and environmental justice which was added as an official element in 2016.

To assist cities and counties to develop and refine their planning document the Governor’s Office and Planning Research published some guidelines in August of 2017.  These charts capture the essence of that guidance.

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Please note that broadband is not mentioned in either graphic, yet broadband has a significant relationship to land use, circulation, housing, conservation, and social justice.

Broadband is mention in the General Planning Guidelines three places:

Chapter 4, Required Elements, Page 81, broadband as a “relevant utility.”

Chapter 4, Page 82 Broadband:

“Both state and federal governments are implementing various funding programs that serve the goal of expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved areas. Within California, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) manages the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), which invests hundreds of millions of dollars annually in broadband deployment. The state also created the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), which was designed to be a public-purpose venture capital fund.”

Dig once policies can substantially reduce costs for providing broadband service to communities. A new provider can run ber through leased conduit space at a fraction of the costs, incentivizing more private actors to deploy or reducing costs to the city if self-provisioning broadband services. For example, if conduit construction was promoted along ongoing civil work projects, fiber deployment costs drop by $30,000- $100,000 per mile. On average, 60 to 90 percent of network deployment costs come from civil works as opposed to equipment and maintenance.

Chapter 6, page 211:

In addition, general plan policies may improve access to health services through integrated public transportation and provisions for access to broadband, allowing for telemedicine capacity. 

If California planners were serious about the benefits of every home and businesses having broadband access, they would provide General Planning Guidance beyond dig once.

According to a recent Brookings Metro Policy Paper in less than two decades broadband access has become one of the foundations of the American Economy, joining water, sewer, power, transportation, and energy as essential infrastructure.

If broadband is essential infrastructure, and a “relevant utility”, it should be included in the general planning requirements:

Land Use:  Reduce the cost of installing fixed and mobile wireless antennas, including G5 mini towers.  See Nevada County Land Use, Communications for WiFi example.

Circulation: Use of broadband reduces the need to travel, enables work from home, promoter online shopping all which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to a California, Emerging Technology Funds report Broadband as Green Strategy, access to broadband reduces vehicle miles traveled, office-space construction, energy use, while increasing online shopping, all which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.1 billion tons over ten years,

Housing:  All new development should include broadband networks, especially in multi-family housing in low-income neighborhoods, where adoption is hindered by high-cost access.

Conservation:  Broadband reduces the consumption of natural resources. See Circulation.

Environmental Justice: Broadband internet improves access to health care, education, and employment. Broadband opens the doors to entrepreneurship by individual and small groups, especially in rural communities creating community wealth.

Also missing from the Governor’s Office and Planning Research planning guidelines issued in August 2017 are topics and elements related to economic development. An issue worthy of a future post. 

Your thoughts? Should Broadband be given more attention in General Planning?

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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]

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.

Broadband Mapping: Lawmakers Weigh Wicker’s Funding Gambit

— Lawmakers are broadly receptive to concerns Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is raising about the accuracy of FCC broadband maps. But most are not ready to commit to supporting Wicker’s attempt to hitch language to the year-end government funding bill to force the FCC to revisit the mapping. Congress is looking to wrap up its final fiscal 2019 funding measure by Dec. 21, and John had reported last week that Wicker is pursuing the broadband amendment.

— Although Senate appropriator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) quickly endorsed the idea, others say they are still assessing. “Senator Wicker’s going to be the chairman of the Commerce Committee next year, and if I was the FCC, I’d be listening closely, and I would hope we could send a strong message and some ability to get the mapping to where it’s reliable,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a senior appropriator and member of GOP leadership, told John on Tuesday. “It’s just so unbelievably unreliable.” Blunt said he would want to talk to Wicker about specifics but seemed potentially open to the right measure.

— Sen.Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), another appropriator, “still has concerns” about the FCC’s initial mapping aimed at determining eligibility for Mobility Fund subsidies, “but he looks forward to seeing how the challenge process may have improved the map,” a spokesman said when asked about a funding rider. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will “certainly be reviewing the challenge process with my colleagues,” he told POLITICO in a statement. “The fact of the matter is we can’t just rely on carrier submitted data, which is why I supported mapping funds for NTIA in the appropriations package last spring.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

C|NET: FCC leaders say we need a ‘national mission’ to fix rural broadband

 

C|NET BB

 

 

This is part of CNET’s “Crossing the Broadband Divide” series exploring the challenges of getting internet access to everyone.

Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel may disagree on the net neutrality angle, but they do agree on finding inspiration in the 1930s.

As anyone who’s ventured beyond major cities or population centers in the US can tell you, high-speed internet access is a luxury that millions of people don’t experience. According to data from the Federal Communications Commission, roughly 39 percent of people living in rural regions of this country lack access to high-speed broadband, compared with just 4 percent of urban Americans.

What’s more, the internet that rural Americans can access is slower and more expensive than it is for their urban counterparts. To add insult to injury, rural residents generally earn less than those in urban areas.

So how are policy makers working to solve this problem? I [
Marguerite Reardon] traveled to Washington last month to talk about this topic with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the only Democrat on the commission. Specifically, I wanted to know what they see as the cause of this divide and how they think it can be bridged.

Full Report HERE.

I am highlighting this insight, as it is vitally important and a real challenge which I will cover in more detail in a future post.

But before you can really get things going, you have to address one key issue, Rosenworcel said.

“Our broadband maps are terrible,” she said. “If we’re going to solve this nation’s broadband problems, then the first thing we have to do is fix those maps. We need to know where broadband is and is not in every corner of this country.

It is impossible to effectively allocate resources if policymakers cannot identify the real problem. The logic used to create the current broadband maps is seriously flawed in two aspects, it is based on self-reporting by ISPs of advertised speeds and a single user in a census block the mappers assumes that all in the census block has similar service. Both of these flaws seriously distort reality.

C|NET: Why Rural Areas Can’t Catch A Break On Speedy Broadband

Everyone agrees on the mission to connect more people. But no one can agree on how to do it.

C|NET BB

 

 

This is part of CNET’s “Crossing the Broadband Divide” series exploring the challenges of getting internet access to everyone.

 

 

[…]

In previous generations, communities thrived based on their proximity to infrastructure like roads, railways, airports and rivers to distribute goods. Today, it’s about having access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet. Communities without access will simply wither and die, says Jonathan Chambers, a former FCC official and partner at the Washington-based consulting firm Conexon, which works with electric co-ops looking to deliver rural broadband service.

People will vote with their feet and move away from places that do not provide high-speed internet access,” he said. “They will leave, and that community will not survive.”

[…]

But the biggest barrier to getting broadband in certain areas of the country is low population density. Broadband providers simply won’t offer service if they can’t get enough customers to pay for it.

[…]

The advent of 5G wireless, which promises to bring increased speeds and network responsiveness, is also unlikely to reach rural communities.

[…]

Market forces are what will drive the deployment of 5G,” said Blair Levin, who oversaw the FCC’s National Broadband report in 2010 and who served as chief of staff to Clinton-era FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. “The 5G economics are very different than they are for 4G. And cities, because of their density, are in a much better position to drive 5G deployment than rural communities.”

[…]

“Even if you make it cheaper to deploy and invest in the network, if you can’t sustain a business because the population density is too low, it doesn’t really matter,” Brake said.

[…]

. . . 5G, which needs hundreds of radios to cover relatively short distances, is likely prohibitively expensive to make sense for rural areas.

There’s also the use of unlicensed TV broadcast spectrum called white spaces. Microsoft, which holds several royalty-free technology patents for using this spectrum, announced a program in July 2017 to connect 2 million people in rural America by 2022 through partnerships with telecom companies. The company promised to have 12 projects up and running in 12 states in the next 12 months.

The FCC has set rules for the use of white space spectrum and established an administrator of a national database to identify channels that can be used by devices accessing the shared spectrum. But there have been problems with the database’s accuracy, and there’s not yet an ecosystem of devices, which means it could be a while before the technology is widely used by consumers.

Full Article is HERE.  Color highlights added.

 

 

Techwire: Broadband Spread: First the Route

Then the Tech California’s Broadband Council held its first meeting aimed at allowing stakeholders to identify key communications corridors across the state. This will roll into the plan to develop the state’s broadband infrastructure, delivering services to 98 percent of households, which is one of the council’s legislative goals.

More details HERE.