American Broadband Buildout Act Would Dedicate $5 Billion to Rural Broadband

The American Broadband Buildout Act, introduced by Senators Susan M. Collins and Doug Jones, would make $5 billion available to help bring broadband to rural areas where the service is not currently available and to support digital literacy and public awareness campaigns.

The funding would come in the form of grants through a program administered by the Federal Communications Commission.

“The legislation would help ensure that rural Americans have access to broadband services at speeds they need to fully participate in the benefits of our modern society and economy,” said Collins in a statement introducing the bill.

American Broadband Buildout Act
Key points of the act include:

  • Funded projects must be in unserved areas.
  • The federal funding must be matched through public-private partnerships between the broadband service provider and the state in which the broadband service will be deployed.
  • Projects must be designed to be “future proof,” meaning the infrastructure must be capable of delivering higher speeds as broadband demand increases.
  • Projects in states that have traditionally lagged behind the national average in terms of broadband subscribers would be prioritized.
  • Some funding would go to digital literacy and public awareness campaigns, with the goal of helping to attract employers to rural areas and addressing the disparity in adoption rates between rural and urban users.

Continue reading HERE.

Advertisements

CPUC Releases California Advanced Services Fund Broadband Adoption Gap Analysis

SAN FRANCISCO, June 19, 2019 – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has released an analysis on gaps in those subscribing to high-speed broadband internet. The Adoption Gap Analysis was ordered in Decision (D.) 18-06-032 and identifies various demographic barriers to broadband adoption and provides information to support important program and grant decisions for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) Broadband Adoption Account.

The analysis concludes that income, of all the demographic barriers to adoption, is the most significant factor contributing to low adoption (subscription) rates. As a result, the analysis identifies the top ten communities with some of the lowest adoption rates and lowest incomes in California that will be prioritized for grant funding.

In addition to identifying various barriers, the analysis adds data to the online California Interactive Broadband Map (http://www.broadbandmap.ca.gov/) to include various demographic data at the census tract, block group or block level.

These resources will assist decision makers, stakeholders and potential CASF applicants to 1) better understand their communities and its needs; 2) identify the area’s specific barriers and how to address them; and 3) know where to best implement Adoption projects to yield greater benefits. Applicants interested in applying for grants in the CASF Adoption Account should use these tools and resources in developing proposals. The full analysis can be found here.

 

How Data Journalism Helped Power A Rural Broadband Revolution

One small magazine, one semi-retired reporter, and an award-winning series of studies using federal statistics that showed why broadband was critical to rural survival.

Trevor Butterworth
June 17, 2019

We are doing broadband,” said President Trump on signing H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka, the “Farm Bill”). “Everyone wanted it so badly.”
Hardly anyone noticed, but to advocates of rural broadband, it seemed scarcely believable that wanting something so badly had actually ended in the funding to make it happen. But there it was: $1.75 billion over five years—which was coming on top of $600 million for rural broadband in the March 2018 omnibus budget bill.

Behind the wanting, though, was data—and notably, a series of studies looking at the impact of broadband access on rural population loss, and showing, over several iterations, an increasingly causal link between lack of access and population loss in America’s most disconnected counties.

The studies were done for a small business to business magazine, Broadband Communities, and its Editor-at-Large, veteran data journalist Steve Ross, who had taught students at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism for years about the value of looking at the data (including this writer in 1997), when data journalism was called “computer-assisted reporting.”

Regulators had been headline attendees at the magazine’s conferences, so the studies were widely known and shared within the broadband community, but it was a series of calls from congressional offices in 2018 to talk about the findings that led Ross to think they might be helping to inform legislative change. As Ross notes, congressional staffers were “shocked” to discover that the studies came from an independent trade magazine and not an industry front group or advocacy organization.

What this story shows is that even a small magazine can help drive the kind of change that affects millions of Americans. And it did so because a journalist knew how to use federal statistics to tell a story.

Continue reading HERE.

This is a story of how leadership can solve a problem, by being diligent and unrelenting. If your rural community lack this kind of leadership your prospects of getting broadband is limited to waiting for the big telcos determine your density is sufficient to meet their ROI hurdles. How long are you willing to wait?

FCC Calling All Farmers

 

— FCC chief Ajit Pai said Monday he’s looking for a few good farmers (and ranchers, and broadband providers) for the new, 15-member Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force. The advisory group will focus on improving connectivity for agricultural producers, and will work with both the FCC and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group’s mission includes identifying gaps in broadband availability on farmland, and coming up with policy recommendations with a goal of expanding reliable broadband to 95 percent of agricultural land by 2025. Nominations for membership are due July 17.

Sources: POLITICO Morning Tech

Like Politics, All Broadband Policy Is Local

Craig Settles

Federal and state policymakers continue to ignore, weaken and, in some instances, block local input and control of broadband. This needs to stop if the country is to ever have viable, affordable broadband for all.

Even though community broadband has proven itself incredibly valuable and viable, broadband is taking a beating in some areas of the country thanks to what has become a siege against municipal broadband by the large telecom incumbents, including AT&T, Comcast and others. This effort has led to a backlash against muni broadband in some states, depriving communities of a well-tested option when it comes to high-speed connectivity to the Internet and the digital economy.

The only way we can fight back is to start with reliable, locally generated data from those in the trenches. This is critically important. Nobody knows about local economies like economic development professionals, community groups, elected officials, co-ops and other local organizations.

Right now, several crucial federal and state broadband policy decisions are being made that will benefit from local economic expertise, input and advocacy. Who better to help inform those decisions than local economic development professionals? If communities don’t have this expertise at the table in Washington, D.C., and state capitals, local broadband could lose big. So, if they won’t seat you at the table, bring a chair.

Continue reading HERE.

When a local official is not engaged in the promotion of broadband, like we have seen in some foothill communities there is no one to represent the local community. This is a double slap in the face of citizens in the need for broadband access for commerce, remote work, healthcare, education, and public safety. You should ask your County supervisor and City Council person, what are you doing to bring broadband to our community?

Race Communications Leases Nevada County Land for Bright Fiber Project

After holding a Community Town Hall in January on the fiber network down highway 174, Race Communications has started to move forward on the project. The Union has more details HERE.

There are almost 2,000 homes in the service area along Highway 174. In a January town hall officials said the project’s completion was set for May 2020.

If you live along SR-174 what are your thoughts?  Ready to sign up?

Comstocks: Slow Progress for Fast Speeds

 

Two years after partnering with Verizon, few Sacramento neighborhoods have 5G availability

Russell Nichols has the details in the June issue of Comstock’s magazine.

In December, Earl Lum spent the holiday season snooping around Sacramento’s eight city council districts, snapping pictures of city-owned street lights for evidence. The wireless analyst was on a mission to assess the status of Verizon’s 5G Home network, which launched in the capital in October 2018.

He came bearing questions: How many poles had the shoe-boxed sized 5G radios mounted on them? Were these fixed wireless sites only in wealthier neighborhoods? Did they target businesses? It took him three trips to map every pole. Each time, he scouted for two to three days from dawn to dusk. For an official launch of a network like this, Lum believes at least 2,000 sites with about 50 percent service coverage would be respectable. But what he found was some 200 small cells attached to street lights with broadband signals reaching less than 10 percent of Sacramento’s population.

“The network was extremely limited,” says Lum, founder of EJL Wireless Research in Half Moon Bay, who has analyzed wireless and mobile radio access markets for over 20 years. “There was clearly not enough sites to even do what I would call a real launch for a network.”

There are 40,000 city-owned poles in Sacramento with about 9,000 being suitable for wireless development, according to city officials. But Lum argues that those suitable poles only cover the main streets, and the distance of the signals from each site fails to fill the gaps. Another issue he points out is the millimeter wave technology, which is line of sight, meaning trees and rain can disrupt signals.

Two years after the city’s partnership with Verizon was announced, Lum’s findings – published in the report United States 5G Fixed Wireless Access Case Study, Verizon Wireless and the City of Sacramento, CA – paint a sobering picture. The city boasted of being one of the first four test cities for the telecom giant’s 5G network. Officials called the move a major step toward a future of lightning-fast speeds, smart meters and wearable technology, and, down the line, industrial automation and self-driving cars. They called it a “game-changer.” But if the game has any hope of changing, Lum says the city would need as many as 4,000 sites to provide full coverage, an undertaking that could take up to 10 years.

“Everyone did a lot of field trials prior to the launch,” Lum says. “[Verizon wasn’t] going into this whole thing blind. Part of this survey was to do a fact check on the reality.”

Continue reading HERE.

Russell Nicholes captures the struggle that Sacramento is going through to implement 5G.  Think about the struggle that your community would go through to implement mmWave 5G with the need to maintain the line of sight connections and the antenna spacing needed to provide full coverage. Does your community have unique street lighting infrastructure that would inhibit the use of standard mini-cell tower installations, such as these in historic downtown Nevada City?

Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 6.32.17 AM
Nevada City Street Lights on Main Street

Here is a Chicago Mini-Cell Tower

Chicago_Verizon 5G minitower
Verizon Minoi-Town in Chicago 

“Deployment of 5G services using microwave and millimeter wave frequency bands is critical to the success of 5G in the United States. However, the limitations we have uncovered using these frequency bands should cause the industry to take a serious look at the return on investment for these types of 5G networks.” 

— Earl Lum Microwave Journal.