Broadband Campaign Issue?

Broadband on the brain: Even before launching her presidential bid on Sunday, Klobuchar was already talking up the importance of rural broadband as a 2020 campaign issue. The Minnesota senator told The New Yorker in December that Democratic candidates could “run on” and even “win on” issues like expanding broadband access in rural areas. In Congress, Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Broadband Caucus, has co-sponsored bills aimed at boosting federal agencies’ efforts to widen broadband access.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

What do you think, is rural broadband is a winning campaign issue?

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Why we need to rethink education in the artificial intelligence age

Some Brookings Institute insight into the future of US education with the recognition that our education system is not meeting the STEM challenge, nor are our communications networks, especial in rural areas and low-income neighborhoods meeting the challenge. Without Government initiatives, the US is falling behind and our global leadership is at stake.

Read the whole article HERE.

Broadband in Trump SOTU Message?

Count broadband infrastructure as one dark horse topic that could earn a mention. The president declined to broach the issue during last year’s speech, despite speculation he would. But according to POLITICO’s Anita Kumar , Trump “will renew his long-stalled push to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure during the speech” — a discussion that could resurface broadband considerations.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Are you going to watch?

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.

Screenshot 2019-01-31 21.09.54

Screenshot 2019-01-31 21.10

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?

Good News from USDA for Small ISPs

When the ARRA Broadband RFP was released, multiple small ISPs were interested until they saw the additional workload the owner and staff would have to invest, just to submit the proposal and decided not to participate. When Trump was elected he indicated his administration would support rural broadband funding. My recommendation to the Gold Country Broadband Consortia was to help communities prepare for the RFPs which would be forthcoming, but the Program Manager had other priorities. Her position was “We are not interested in Trump’s money”. A short-sided view of the problem and I terminated my consulting agreement.

I now endorse the USDA action to let small ISPs prepare for the release of their ReConnect RFP.  The important action is for the ISPs to take advantage of this extra preparation time.

USDA Official: States and Localities Need Skin in the Game for Rural Broadband to Succeed

When decision makers consider who should receive some of the $600 million allocated to the USDA ReConnect rural broadband pilot program, the agency will use a scoring system that awards points based on a range of factors, including the number of educational and healthcare facilities that would receive service – and for serving parts of states that have their own broadband funding programs. The latter criteria was included with the goal of “leveraging funding from outside sources” to “maximize the use of very limited resources,” said Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development at the USDA, in an interview with Telecompetitor.

“We believe the federal government has a role, but we also need to see skin in the game from states and local communities because this is an issue that really touches the quality of life in rural America,” said Hazlett, whose responsibilities include overseeing the USDA Rural Utilities Service program and several other units within USDA.

Hazlett pointed to another example of how the USDA aims to maximize the impact of limited funding: Applicants will be able to request funding in the form of a loan, a grant or a combination of loan and grant.

Full Article is at Telecompetitor

That understanding drove the USDA to release documents on December 14 explaining how to apply for ReConnect rural broadband pilot funding even though the agency will not begin accepting applications for several months.

That move, she said, should help people get any technical assistance they might need to submit applications.

RCRC: Rural Broadband Update

Last week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching its e-Connectivity program to deliver high-speed internet in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and municipalities may apply through USDA’s new “ReConnect Program” for up to $600 million in loans and grants.

Projects that are eligible for ReConnect Program funding will target rural areas with insufficient broadband service. Projects funded through this initiative must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload.

USDA will make available $200 million in grants (applications are due by April 29), $200 million for loan and grant combinations (applications are due by May 29), and $200 million for low-interest loans (applications due by June 28). Projects that receive funding through the program will be required to create access speeds of up to 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload.

The funding for the USDA’s new rural broadband program originates from the Fiscal 2018 omnibus, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. Congress passed the omnibus spending package in March 2018 with $600 million in new funding for rural broadband projects.

Source RCRC The Barbed Wire

 

POLITICO: Broadband On The Brain

— Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of several Democratic lawmakers mulling a 2020 presidential bid, thinks Democrats could “run on” and even “win on” wonky-but-important talk about issues like rural broadband. Klobuchar told The New Yorker that while the issue might not be on the radar for “most people in urban areas … a lot of parts of our rural countryside can’t even access cell-phone service, much less broadband.” But would that matter as a campaign issue in the age of Trump, who has not commented extensively on issues like broadband? Yes, says the Minnesota lawmaker, who adds that challengers “just have to meet him with facts” rather than going “down every rabbit hole with him.”

— Thinking tech, too: Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who represents parts of Silicon Valley, is taking a similar approach to tech jobs in rural America, as Nancy detailed in a Q&A for The Agenda last week. Khanna, who has taken his message on tech to rural communities in recent months, said that defining “American patriotism as future-oriented” is how Democrats can best counter Trump. “We have to have an answer for folks about how their communities are going to have economic mobility and jobs in the future,” he said. (Unlike Klobuchar, Khanna told Nancy he is not considering running in 2020.)