Heidi Hall: Federal, State Support Needed for Rural Broadband in Areas Like Nevada County

The pull quote from the Hall Other Voices:

This simply won’t get done without some financial help from the state and federal government, revived regulations that require larger companies to provide a better standard of service …

The full article is HERE.

My comment on Hall’s Other Voices:

Other communities are not waiting for state and federal government grants to build rural broadband networks. They consider broadband as critical infrastructure, just like city water, sewer, power, and transportation. They float bonds, build the fiber network, and then charge a connection fee just like they would a new water service connection, and then a monthly user fee.

One example can be found HERE.

Over 500 communities across the nation are served by community networks. Details here: https://muninetworks.org/communitymap

What prevents Nevada County from treating broadband as critical infrastructure? A middle-mile fiber network snakes its way through the County, passing numerous clusters of homes and business.

While $250,000 is a start, millions are required to close the last mile with fiber spurs and wireless distribution to homes and business. It is time for the County to treat broadband as critical infrastructure like hundreds of other communities have and more planning to take the plunge. Details here https://muninetworks.org/communitymap

Government award grants to well-defined projects with a high probability of success. Where are those Nevada County projects? The ROI driven corporations are not going to build out rural broadband networks. Nevada County needs to take action now and build the critical infrastructure to connect homes and business to the existing VAST fiber network.

[Edited for blog post]

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Federal Reserve Bank Report on Broadband Digital Divide

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released its report Disconnected: Seven Lessons on Fixing the Digital Divide on July 31st at a State Broadband Leaders Network Meeting.

CONCLUSION: THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACTION

The digital divide is wide and complex. No one group can bridge the divide alone—not government, banks, businesses or community organizations. Each of these groups, however, must play a role if the divide is to be narrowed.

This report identified three specific opportunities for action, which align with the three legs of the digital 1inclusion stool:

1. Research and evaluate the impact of policy on broadband expansion.

Good policy requires good data. Throughout this project, we found research related to the economic affect broadband has on communities. The studies documented the correlation between broadband and economic opportunity, but questions remain as to what policies best encourage broadband expansion. Policies vary greatly from one state to the next, especially as it relates to which types of entities—large carriers, small independent for-profit providers, municipalities and cooperatives—are allowed to build and operate networks. Elected officials would find it easier to make informed decisions if they had access to research on the effectiveness of these policies on boosting broadband deployment and improving affordability. Broader research on improving affordability and adoption would also help inform the field.

2. Support and expand workforce development programs focused on digital skills training.

Digital skills are a must for the in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow. Innovative approaches to preparing workers can provide a pathway to living-wage jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, or, in many cases, even a two-year degree. Simply training workers on basic office-related programs like email and word processing can boost their employability. Registered apprenticeship programs can further expedite the process of developing and onboarding qualified workers. Workforce development programs targeting LMI individuals may also attract interest from banks seeking CRA-related activities, as outlined in Engaging Workforce Development: A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations by the Federal Reserve Banks of Dallas and Kansas City.

3. Support computer donation programs targeting those in need.

Businesses, government agencies, universities and other anchor institutions frequently replace computers in two-year to four-year cycles. Surplus computers have little monetary value, typically just pennies on the dollar. When donated, though, they can make a significant difference—whether the computer goes to a low-income mom pursuing her education, or a student learning to code. A donated computer can be a low-cost, high-impact way to change one’s economic trajectory. Such initiatives, particularly when targeting LMI populations and combined with workforce training programs, could also attract interest from banks seeking CRA-related activities.

The full report, with a long section on rural broadband, including a sidebar on mapping issues, can be downloaded HERE.

RCRC: Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act

RCRC has conveyed its support to the Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act (Act), authored by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. The Act would overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s order and restore the authority of local governments to make important determinations regarding the siting of wireless facilities in their respective communities.

RCRC believes local officials are best equipped to assess the impacts of new telecommunication facilities on their residents. Federal policies that preempt the application review process and lessen discretion presents significant concerns to California’s rural counties. RCRC supports a regulatory framework that not only empowers local governments to determine the best pathway to viable broadband service in their communities, but also incentivizes broadband deployment to those rural areas that remain unserved and underserved.

RCRC’s support letter can be accessed here. Please contact Tracy Rhine, RCRC Legislative Advocate, at (916) 447-4806 or trhine@rcrcnet.org for more information.

 

In his report at Brookings on 5G Tom Wheeler, former FCC Commissioner identified local control as one of the five hidden issues here. He indicated that 5G would be slow coming to rural communities and the resort to local control would slow the process even more.  More on the local control issue here.

 

The FCC’s Decision To Streamline Pole Attachments Have Gone Into Effect.

The FCC voted in August 2018 (unanimously, though with one partial dissent) to adopt a one-touch, make-ready (OTMR) policy for new broadband attachments on utility poles.

The rules were scheduled to take effect 30 days after publication of the rules in the Federal Register, which happened April 19. That could not happen until the Office of Management and Budget had signed off on the reporting requirement per the Paperwork Reduction Act, which happened April 15.

The new rules took effect Monday, May 20

The third Report & Order and declaratory ruling allows new attachers — like cable broadband providers and Google Fiber — to perform all the “simple” work of preparing and attaching the wires.

The ruling also declared in no uncertain terms that states and localities are prohibited from imposing moratoria on broadband buildouts.

The item codified that new wires can overlash existing attachments to maximize the space available and regularizes the rate incumbents pay for attachments vs. cable and telco attachers.

Continue reading at MultiChannel News HERE. [Emphasis Added]

 

More DIY Fiber Served Networks in Western Nevada County?

By Russ Steele

I described the Beckville Network HERE, an innovate way to access the VAST Fiber network which twists and winds through Western Nevada County’s rural neighborhoods. Does this fiber network come close to your area?  See the map.

VAST in NC

One essential item NOT on the map is the splice points, where a point-of-presence could easily be established by VAST for access to the fiber.

I am working on a map with more details, but one of the first items to add should be the potential access points.

Ten years ago I  used my GPS to find all the AT&T DSL Remote Terminals by following the fiber cable and then recording the location using the GPS for plotting on a digital map.  If interested in starting a network, drive the route and spot the splice point vaults.  Wish I had a photo to show you what to look for. 

Any interest in developing a plan for your neighborhood?  Leave a comment with contact information. 

What Does the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Report Tell Us About the Digital Divide?

John B. Horrigan is Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

Conclusion

Back to the original question: What does the latest 706 report tell us about the digital divide? Not very much. It uses carrier-reported data that vary wildly from other methods and focuses only on a single part of the digital divide. Here are suggestions for action:

• . Continue to improve metrics: As the NTIA addresses broadband mapping, it should consider bringing network speed measurement into the picture to capture network performance at the local level.

• . Bolster capacity at the local level: With the digital divide becoming more local, the federal government should equip localities with the resources they need to address it.

The FCC recently gutted the ability of local governments to raise resources to address digital inclusion by limiting their ability to charge fees for rights-of-way for 5G deployment. Prior to federal preemption, some places used such fees for digital inclusion planning and funding. The federal government should develop a digital inclusion planning and grant program to help defray, in part at least, lost local revenues from the FCC’s action. Senator Patty Murray recently introduced the Digital Equity Act of 2019 which offers a vehicle for such a program.

Policymakers’ focus on the digital divide will not go away anytime soon. As dialogue on it continues, better data and a broad understanding of the problem are crucial to helping decision-makers make progress on the digital divide.

Emphasis was added.  The full report is HERE.

Supervisors Deny 70 Household Critical Infrastructure

Note:  This letter to The Union Editor was submitted on 30 May 2019

Nevada County supervisors oppose new cell tower read the headline!

“Nevada County Supervisor Ed Scofield said he usually supports new cell towers. However, he wasn’t going to approve one at 13083 Wildlife Lane.
Speaking near the end of a Tuesday hearing for a tower, Scofield said the proposed 110-foot AT&T tower would bring broadband access to only some 70 homes.”
In today’s digital world Broadband access has become critical infrastructure, just like water, power and waste management according to the Brookings Institute, California Public Utilities Commission, the Federal Communication Commission and other future assessing organizations.
Would the Supervisors deny 70 households access to water, power, or waste management? No! So why do they deny 70 homes access to more economic opportunity, better education, and healthcare that is available on this critical infrastructure called broadband?
I have invested 1,000 of hours promoting broadband in Nevada County, mapping broadband deficiencies, working with Congress and the FCC to promote federal investment in rural broadband. Now that it has arrived Supervisor Schofield says, “We do not need that” Really, how clueless to the needs of modern digital society can a Supervisor be?
This kind of leadership is destroying the economic potential of a beautiful County. It would help if Nevada County had a more knowledgeable representative.