Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) teased a forthcoming bill addressing broadband mapping accuracy during Wednesday’s hearing on the topic. “Improving the nation’s broadband maps starts with better coordination and information sharing among federal agencies responsible for administering broadband deployment programs,” Wicker said, stressing the need for coordination among the FCC, NTIA and USDA. “I hope we will soon have legislation.” Existing broadband maps put out by the FCC have been broadly criticized as inaccurate.
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech with a new headline.
— 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.
— Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) is today introducing his Connect America Fund Accountability Act , which will require recipients of the FCC’s CAF broadband subsidies to provide additional information about their internet speed and latency testing. “This legislation institutes specific tools to hold providers accountable for accurate reporting while ensuring households and businesses throughout our rural communities have access to the broadband services required to compete in the 21st-century economy,” Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
— And keep an eye out — later this month, Collins plans to reintroduce his Gigabit Opportunity Act, which would create tax incentives for broadband investment in low-income areas, an aide tells MT.
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech [Emphsis Added]
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
— 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.)
Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), who is set to be Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in the 116th Congress, is standing by his proposal to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fix its broadband mapping data. Senator Wicker announced last week he would push language in an upcoming spending bill that would require the FCC to consider the concerns of senators from rural states who argue the FCC’s mapping data misrepresents broadband coverage in rural America.
It is uncertain whether Congress will allow Senator Wicker’s language to pass, but the FCC is likely to heed the concerns of the incoming Chairman of the Committee with direct oversight of the Commission.
Microsoft President Brad Smith announced this week that Microsoft will lead a new effort to bring broadband to rural California. Smith announced in a press release that Microsoft is expanding its “Airband Initiative” into new states, including California. Through the Airband Initiative, Microsoft partners with internet service providers leveraging a mix of innovative broadband solutions, including TV white spaces, to deliver high-speed internet coverage for rural areas. Microsoft founded the program in 2017 with the goal to bring broadband to 2 million rural Americans without internet access.
Source RCRC Barbed Wire Newsletter