RCRC: December Broadband Update

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

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Broadband Mapping: Lawmakers Weigh Wicker’s Funding Gambit

— Lawmakers are broadly receptive to concerns Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is raising about the accuracy of FCC broadband maps. But most are not ready to commit to supporting Wicker’s attempt to hitch language to the year-end government funding bill to force the FCC to revisit the mapping. Congress is looking to wrap up its final fiscal 2019 funding measure by Dec. 21, and John had reported last week that Wicker is pursuing the broadband amendment.

— Although Senate appropriator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) quickly endorsed the idea, others say they are still assessing. “Senator Wicker’s going to be the chairman of the Commerce Committee next year, and if I was the FCC, I’d be listening closely, and I would hope we could send a strong message and some ability to get the mapping to where it’s reliable,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a senior appropriator and member of GOP leadership, told John on Tuesday. “It’s just so unbelievably unreliable.” Blunt said he would want to talk to Wicker about specifics but seemed potentially open to the right measure.

— Sen.Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), another appropriator, “still has concerns” about the FCC’s initial mapping aimed at determining eligibility for Mobility Fund subsidies, “but he looks forward to seeing how the challenge process may have improved the map,” a spokesman said when asked about a funding rider. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will “certainly be reviewing the challenge process with my colleagues,” he told POLITICO in a statement. “The fact of the matter is we can’t just rely on carrier submitted data, which is why I supported mapping funds for NTIA in the appropriations package last spring.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Taking FCC Frustrations To Government Funding: FCC Mapping Flaws

— Bipartisan interest is growing on Capitol Hill in using a year-end funding bill to force the FCC to take stock of the accuracy of its broadband data. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is leading the effort, as John reported Thursday . “I’ll be very frank: I’m going to try to stick something on the spending bill to make the FCC take another look at this,” said Wicker, the likely incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in the new year. He called the FCC’s mapping “fatally flawed.”

— And count Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in, too . Tester “would certainly be interested in addressing this issue during the appropriations process,” a spokeswoman said. Although Wicker has broad support in his frustrations, hitching an amendment could still be a heavy lift. Government funding expires Dec. 7, which gives Wicker and his allies little time to try to slip that in. Either way, Wicker tells John he plans to stay focused on his FCC frustrations as Commerce chair: “I would want to look at a way to get an accurate measurement so that we can distribute $4.5 billion in a way that’s meaningful.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

 

New Senate Broadband Legislation

— Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) joined Thursday to introduce a rural broadband bill, the ACCESS Rural America Act, aimed at helping small telecom companies escape certain Securities and Exchange Commission filing requirements. The legislation would raise the number of investors that prompts some of these obligations. “Unfortunately, rural telecom companies are getting hit with disclosure costs that were never intended for them,” said Baldwin.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

What 2018 Midterm Election Means for Rural Broadband

According to POLITICO Morning Tech:

A Democratic House and Republican Senate have a bipartisan shot at legislating on tech issues, but it’s a limited one. The two chambers “show signs that they could align around two issues: imposing privacy rules on the country’s tech giants and directing new funds to improve internet service in rural parts of the country,” John reports . “But with a tight window for legislating and the 2020 presidential election looming, the political climate doesn’t favor robust cooperation, making any breakthroughs challenging.”

Strong Rural Broadband Advocate:

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce tech subcommittee defeated Democrat Phil Bredesen in the election to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Bob Corker. Blackburn has been a strong advocate for rural broadband and it should help to have a strong voice in the Senate.

C|NET: FCC leaders say we need a ‘national mission’ to fix rural broadband

 

C|NET BB

 

 

This is part of CNET’s “Crossing the Broadband Divide” series exploring the challenges of getting internet access to everyone.

Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel may disagree on the net neutrality angle, but they do agree on finding inspiration in the 1930s.

As anyone who’s ventured beyond major cities or population centers in the US can tell you, high-speed internet access is a luxury that millions of people don’t experience. According to data from the Federal Communications Commission, roughly 39 percent of people living in rural regions of this country lack access to high-speed broadband, compared with just 4 percent of urban Americans.

What’s more, the internet that rural Americans can access is slower and more expensive than it is for their urban counterparts. To add insult to injury, rural residents generally earn less than those in urban areas.

So how are policy makers working to solve this problem? I [
Marguerite Reardon] traveled to Washington last month to talk about this topic with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the only Democrat on the commission. Specifically, I wanted to know what they see as the cause of this divide and how they think it can be bridged.

Full Report HERE.

I am highlighting this insight, as it is vitally important and a real challenge which I will cover in more detail in a future post.

But before you can really get things going, you have to address one key issue, Rosenworcel said.

“Our broadband maps are terrible,” she said. “If we’re going to solve this nation’s broadband problems, then the first thing we have to do is fix those maps. We need to know where broadband is and is not in every corner of this country.

It is impossible to effectively allocate resources if policymakers cannot identify the real problem. The logic used to create the current broadband maps is seriously flawed in two aspects, it is based on self-reporting by ISPs of advertised speeds and a single user in a census block the mappers assumes that all in the census block has similar service. Both of these flaws seriously distort reality.

Thune Still Eyes Hearing On 5G Legislation

— Despite the clock running down on 2018, Thune says he’s still trying to schedule a hearing on his STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, S. 3157, intended to ease the deployment of 5G infrastructure. The measure faces opposition from several organizations representing local and state governments. “I don’t know if they’re ever going to get on and fully endorse this,” Thune told reporters on Thursday. “I think in the end it’ll be hard, unless the cities get to a better comfort level than where they are today, it would be hard to advance the bill just because they have obviously a lot of influence with senators.” He said his staff continues to negotiate with an eye toward finding consensus and says a hearing is a good idea in any case “because I think we need to elevate the issue.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech