— FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks is calling on the commission to “conduct a data driven 10-year look-back on how our [broadband subsidy] program has effectively performed in bringing broadband to our remote areas,” as he put it during recent remarks before the Broadband Communities Conference: “I don’t want to wake up in 10 years and live in a world where the FCC does not have any better understanding of how and why we still find significant numbers of our communities left out of our digital world.” The Democratic commissioner said such an assessment would help the FCC develop its planned Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
Rural Broadband Update
This week, Representative Antonio Delgado (D-New York) announced a package of two bills aimed at addressing flawed broadband mapping practices and increasing broadband speeds for rural communities.
The first bill, the Broadband Speed Act (HR 4641), would require internet service providers to annually report data to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that shows the actual speeds they are capable of providing, as opposed to what they can potentially provide. This will help the FCC determine where advertised speeds match actual speeds. The second bill, the Community Broadband Mapping Act, would allow local governments, electric/telephone cooperatives, economic development/community groups and small internet providers to collect information on local broadband service. This will enable communities who are currently incorrectly designated by the FCC as having service to take action to have the information necessary to dispute that status with the FCC.
AT&T is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to exclude 5G from its required upgraded data mapping collection. “There is broad agreement that it is not yet time to require reporting on 5G coverage” AT&T said in a statement to the FCC.
AT&T and other mobile carriers want to hide 5G coverage maps from the public while subsequently marketing the pace and breadth of their 5G rollouts. “Service standards for 5G are still emerging, precluding reporting of service-level coverage for 5G networks (other than the 5G-NR submissions already required),” AT&T wrote.
by Joan Engebretson writing at Telecompetitor:
The FCC will vote later this month on broadband speed testing procedures for recipients of Universal Service Fund (USF) support, said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a blog post. Pai said he had circulated a draft of USF broadband speed testing requirements to the other FCC commissioners in preparation for a vote at the October FCC monthly meeting.
USF Broadband Speed Testing
Pai noted that the FCC has been reviewing testing procedures for several months aimed at ensuring that USF recipients deliver broadband at the speeds they are required to deliver as a condition for receiving USF support. He said the proposed performance measurement procedures strike “the right balance.”
“On one hand, we want to make sure that subscribers are getting the quality of service that they have been promised and our rules require,” Pai wrote. “On the other, we also want to make sure that our testing procedures don’t impose unnecessary burdens on small carriers located in hard-to-serve areas that often face unique challenges.”
He didn’t provide many details on the speed test procedures and the draft order is not yet available publicly, but he did note that the proposed requirements would change testing implementation dates so that those dates are more closely aligned with when a carrier has its first mandatory build-out obligations.
He also noted that the speed test procedures call for a pre-testing period aimed at enabling carriers to ensure that their testing systems are performing correctly before testing begins.
Speed testing could become increasingly important as companies that won funding through the Connect America Fund CAF II auction begin their buildouts, as some companies gained a bidding advantage by committing to provide higher-speed service.
Continue reading HERE.
What is this accountability noise? It is rare that an ISP provides the level of service promoted in their marketing campaigns. This contract accountability could make for some very nervous providers, I can smell the sweat already.
— The House Energy and Commerce telecom subcommittee will soon move to mark up legislation to improve the government’s mapping of broadband data, which lawmakers have long complained is riddled with errors. And the panel will likely use the Broadband DATA Act, H.R. 4229, from Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), as the base. “I think the Loebsack bill will be the vehicle it runs through,” subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) told reporters this week. “But I think we’re going to be taking bits and pieces of the other bills, too.”
— Taking out the ‘garbage’: “We can’t have a system at the FCC when it comes to mapping where it’s garbage in and garbage out, because that’s what it is,” Loebsack said. Ohio Rep. Bob Latta , the top Republican on Doyle’s panel and a backer of the Broadband DATA Act, said, “This is something we can get done.”
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech
Make policy on bad maps is not good policymaking. Good maps are essential to good governance, and it is time for the FCC to step up to the challenge.
The Union has a lack of details:
A county desiring better internet access just caught a break.
In an effort to “close the digital divide in rural America” the Federal Communications Commission announced it will be allocating $2.1 million to Nevada County to build broadband internet, according to a Thursday press release by the commission.
The commission authorized over $50 million in funding over the next decade to support internet access for 21,000 unserved California businesses and homes.
The broadband targets 2,321 locations in Nevada County that don’t have access, and gives providers Cal.net and Viasat three years to complete 40 percent of the project. Each subsequent year, “build out must increase by 20 percent” until the project is completed by the end of the sixth year.
But Nevada County’s chief information officer believes the project’s completion will only take a year or two.
“I’m happy to see monies being released coming into our county,” said Steve Monaghan. “Every dollar helps.”
Continue Reading HERE
Shannon Schroter in the comments asked an important question:
What technology will this ‘broadband internet’ network rollout be using? Copper wire, telephone lines, fiber optics, existing 4G, new 5G towers? This article doesn’t say.
According to the auction documents Cal.Net is using fixed wireless technology.
Cal.net, Inc., is receiving over $50.5 million over 10 years to deploy service to 20,859 homes and businesses in California, most of which will get access to service delivering speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream, using fixed wireless technology.
The article mentions Viasat but they are not listed as one of the current winners in Attachment A of the FCC announcement.
Previous wins for Viasat was for High Latency connections, not the high-speed connections provided by fixed wireless technology.
Telecompetitor has the story
The median U.S. internet speed was 60 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream as of December 31, 2017, according to a report released this month from the FCC. More than two-thirds of internet customers (69%) subscribe to service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps, including 37.5% who subscribe to service at speeds of at least 100 Mbps, the commission said.
The December 2017 data apparently was the most recent available when the FCC did its analysis, which is summarized in the report titled “Internet Access Services: Status as of December 31, 2017.” The data is obtained from FCC Form 477 data.
Median U.S. Internet Speed
The percentage of customers taking higher speed service has been steadily increasing in recent years. As of December 2014, only 44% of customers subscribed to service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps, of which only 9.5% subscribed to service at speeds of 100 Mbps or higher.
Conversely, the percentage of customers taking the lowest speed services has been decreasing. As of December 2017, only 2.8% of internet customers subscribed to service providing speeds of less than 3 Mbps, down from 7.9% in December 2014.
Continue reading HERE.
How is your speed? My download is about the median of 60Mbps, with a 10Mbps upload speed. I am paying for 250 Mbps down and only getting 60 Mbps, with some occasional 150-175 Mbps sprints. When I was buying 1Gig down, the median was about 440Mbps. It is rare to get what you pay for when the contract reads “up to 250Mbps” never stating a specific benchmark to measure against.
SOUTH DAKOTA FIELD TRIP — Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is today convening a Senate Commerce telecom subcommittee field hearing in Sioux Falls to discuss the best ways to expand broadband connectivity to rural communities. Expect plenty of talk about the benefits of internet access, with representatives from local broadband and telemedicine providers, wireless tower builders and university officials as well as Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, the agency’s point person on 5G wireless matters. (He’s been traveling South Dakota since Tuesday).
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech
A few weeks ago, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to members of the House and Senate who raised concerns about the accuracy of the broadband mapping used by the FCC to measure households with access to broadband internet. Chairman Pai wrote to inform the members that the FCC would implement a new order that would “result in more granular and more accurate broadband maps” through the creation of the Digital Opportunity Data Collection (DODC).
The DODC will require broadband providers to report areas they offer service below the census block level. This reported data will then be independently verified by the Universal Service Administrative Company. The DODC approach will be used by the FCC to administer $20 billion over the next ten years to rural broadband deployment through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
FCC Chairman Pai addressed his letter to members from rural states and districts who will be scrutinizing the FCC’s new method for broadband mapping closely. While the DODC is a much needed step in the right direction for broadband mapping, the data collection process remains overly reliant on data from nationwide carriers. It will be critical for the future of rural broadband deployment to measure the success of the DODC program and hold the FCC accountable.
The best of good intentions often go arie, and this is just another opportunity for the government to screw up. Yes, hold the FCC accountable, do your own speed testing and report the results. If you do not have a broadband connection report the failure of the local providers to support your needs for 21st Century Communications directly to the DODC.
FCC Proposes “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” Program
On August 1, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held an Open Commission Meeting where commissioners considered multiple issues that could impact the deployment of broadband internet in rural California. During the meeting, Commissioners proposed a new program to invest in rural broadband projects entitled the “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.”
The Rural Digital Fund (the Fund) would invest $20.4 billion to expand broadband in rural areas without adequate internet access. The proposal would raise the bar for rural broadband deployment by making more areas eligible for support and requiring faster service than the Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II reverse auction. In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC seeks comment on continuing the expansion of broadband where it’s lacking by using an efficient reverse auction that builds on the success of the CAF Phase II auction. The Fund would focus on areas currently served by “price cap” carriers, along with areas that were not won in the CAF Phase II auction and other areas that do not currently receive any high-cost universal service support. The official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requests comment on the following policy proposals for the new fund:
• Make eligible for support any price cap area currently receiving CAF Phase II model-based support but lacking broadband at speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream, 3 Mbps upstream, as well as the areas un-awarded in the CAF Phase II auction.
• Make additional homes and businesses eligible for support by including areas that remain unserved, despite previous expectations that they would be served without subsidies due to estimated lower costs.
• Raise the standard for broadband deployment from the CAF’s 10 Mbps/1 Mbps minimum to at least 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, with incentives for faster speeds.
• Allocate support through a multi-round reverse auction like that used in last year’s CAF Phase II auction. In that auction, competition reduced the cost of reaching over 700,000 unserved homes and businesses from the $5 billion auction reserve price to $1.488 billion.
• Implement a two-phase approach: 1) In Phase I, target wholly unserved census blocks, using an existing FCC data collection 2) In Phase II, target unserved locations in partially unserved census blocks, using new, more granular data being developed through the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, along with areas not won in Phase I.
• Set a budget of $20.4 billion in high-cost universal service support, making available at least $16 billion for Phase I and the remainder available for Phase II. Both phases would have 10-year support terms.
• Adopt technology-neutral standards, opening the auction to all types of providers that can meet program standards.
• Ensure a smooth transition of support from existing providers to auction winners.
• Include measures to require accountability to ensure that funding is used wisely to expand broadband deployment.
Broadband Mapping Update
In order to identify geographic areas that lack adequate broadband access, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is instituting a new process for collecting fixed broadband data. This proposal would reform the FCC’s broadband deployment data collection rules, and improve the accuracy of the National Broadband Map overseen by the National Telecommunications Information Agency (NTIA).
The order established a new collection process known as the Digital Opportunity Data Collection which require mobile and landline service providers to submit detailed coverage maps to show specific areas they serve at the census block level. The order was praised by third parties such as Microsoft, a leading voice from the private sector to improve broadband coverage data, while acknowledging the order is only a step in the right direction. In general, the order is expected to increase the granularity of the data shared by service providers which should lead to more accurate coverage information.
Presidential Candidates Release Broadband Plans
Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential elections are pitching themselves to rural America this week during their campaign tours across the State of Iowa. Some candidates are seizing this opportunity to launch their rural policy platforms and appeal to rural voters.
On Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) announced her plan to deliver high speed broadband coverage to rural areas. As part of her policy platform for rural America, Senator Warren proposed the creation of a new Department of Economic Development which would oversee an $85 billion federal broadband grant program that would provide funding to electricity and telecommunications co-ops, nonprofits, tribes, and local governments. Nationwide carriers would not be eligible for funding.
In her rural platform launch, Senator Warren also said she would back federal legislation that would authorize local governments to construct their own broadband networks. Municipal-owned networks are outlawed in 26 states, including California, but Senator Warren suggested as president she would support federal legislation to lift these bands and authorize municipal broadband networks nationwide.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) published her plan for rural America called “Rebuilding Rural America to Build Our Future,” which would create a $50 billion fund within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute block grants to rural communities for infrastructure, public assistance, and economic development programs. In addition, Senator Gillibrand promised her administration would spend $60 billion to deliver high-speed internet access in rural areas.