— Pai grabbed headlines Friday by unveiling a $20.4 billion “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” as part of a White House 5G event. But the fund, to be spent over a decade, is a rebranding of the FCC’s Connect America Fund program, which supports broadband deployment in hard-to-serve areas. The current funding term for the program ends in 2020, and Pai told reporters the rural fund will involve a “repurposing” of Connect America money. To get the subsidies, providers have had to offer broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps, but the new funding could be used to upgrade service to 25 Mbps.
— The FCC’s Democrats, who said they didn’t have details of the fund, expressed skepticism. “It looks to me like they are dressing up an old program in new, Trump-era clothes,” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said at the press conference following the FCC’s meeting Friday. “It doesn’t look like any new funding, but instead, same old, same old.”
— Commissioner Geoffrey Starks also said he wants to learn more. “It does seem to smell like something that is repackaging some of the money that we already have, because coming up with $20 billion from the FCC is not something that you just trip over.”
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech
Looking forward to seeing the results of this meeting. Rural broadband needs all the public attention it can get. In the scheme of things, rural communities will be the last to get 5G unless some government action is taken to change the ROI for the telecom providers.
Update 04-12-19: From POLITICO Morning Tech
5G IN THE WHITE HOUSE — Pai is slated to head to the White House this afternoon for a 5G-themed meeting with Trump, as Margaret reported for Pros. The afternoon event will focus on U.S. efforts to build the next-generation networks and comes amid feuding by Trump advisers on how best to advance the technology. The meeting is also expected to include a rural broadband funding announcement, according to an administration official. Remember: Pai briefed Trump on American leadership in 5G last week, and Trump also heard from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson about his company’s progress.
— Senate Commerce holds a hearing this morning on the steps needed to improve the accuracy of broadband mapping data, particularly in rural communities where the lack of reliable information has become a source of frustration for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Panel Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has criticized the FCC’s handling of the issue and, six months ago, contemplated the use of a congressional spending bill to force the commission to revisit the problem. “Flawed and inaccurate maps ultimately waste resources and stifle opportunities for economic development in our rural and underserved communities,” Wicker said in an opening statement shared with MT.
— Witnesses include USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter, who is leading his own mapping initiative. (Charter Communications and Microsoft both outlined their own concerns with the mapping process and suggestions for improvement in blog posts this past week.)
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech
— The ACCESS BROADBAND Act, which aims to expand broadband access in underserved areas, is now back in both chambers, lawmakers announced in a news release Wednesday. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) tout bipartisan support for the reintroduction of the measure, H.R. 1328 (116), which would also create an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), meanwhile, are backing a Senate version. The bill passed the House but not the Senate in the previous Congress.
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech
The Press Release is HERE.
Bill Text is HERE I am not sure this legislation and the organization it creates is going to solve any rural broadband problems. No mention of broadband mapping.
— Wireless trade group CTIA will host National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, Pai and executives from T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular to talk all things 5G at a summit at the International Spy Museum today. The industry group came out this week with recommendations for a national spectrum strategy, urging the Trump administration to set a five-year schedule for airwaves auctions and commit to a “free market” approach to 5G. Some Trump allies including the president’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale have been promoting a more government-oriented “wholesale” model for the next-generation networks, in which a public-private partnership would resell spectrum capacity to wireless providers.
— Kudlow, who will give a keynote, is expected to discuss the administration’s support for a private sector, free-enterprise approach.
Source POLITICO Morning Tech
CTIA National Spectrum Strategy Message is HERE.
Click on the Valley Vision Blog for details on Federal Communications Chairman, Ajit Pai, time on the ground last week in the Sacramento region.
Motherboard has the details:
Generally speaking, you can’t fix a problem you don’t fully understand. That’s particularly true of US broadband, where the government’s efforts to map the scope of the nation’s broadband coverage gaps have long been ridiculed as an inaccurate mess.
Microsoft this week was the latest to highlight the US government’s terrible broadband mapping in a filing with the FCC, first spotted by journalist Wendy Davis. In it, Microsoft accuses the FCC of over-stating actual broadband availability and urges the agency to do better.
“The Commission’s broadband availability data, which underpins FCC Form 477 and the Commission’s annual Section 706 report, appears to overstate the extent to which broadband is actually available throughout the nation,” Microsoft said in the filing.
“For example, in some areas the Commission’s broadband availability data suggests that ISPs have reported significant broadband availability (25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up) while Microsoft’s usage data indicates that only a small percentage of consumers actually access the Internet at broadband speeds in those areas,” Microsoft said.
Similar criticism has long plagued the agency. The FCC’s broadband data is received via the form 477 data collected from ISPs. But ISPs have a vested interest in over-stating broadband availability to obscure the sector’s competition problems, and the FCC historically hasn’t worked very hard to independently verify whether this data is truly accurate.
Continue reading the report HERE.