Webinar: Federal Broadband Funding: Policies and Programs to Connect America

This BroadbandUSA webinar offered an overview of federal funding options to support increasing broadband access in communities across the United States. Learn about recent program and policy updates from officials representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

Speakers:

Barrett L. Haga, Ph.D., Senior Administrator for Economic Engagement, Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce

Shawn Arner, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Loan Origination and Approval Division, RUS Telecommunications Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Kate Dumouchel, Special Counsel, Telecommunications Access Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission

Links to presentations and audio are HERE.

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Techwire: Broadband Spread: First the Route

Then the Tech California’s Broadband Council held its first meeting aimed at allowing stakeholders to identify key communications corridors across the state. This will roll into the plan to develop the state’s broadband infrastructure, delivering services to 98 percent of households, which is one of the council’s legislative goals.

More details HERE.

Broadband Mapping Problems

A GOA Report addressing the lack of broadband on tribal lands outlines the mapping problem. The full tribal lands report is HERE: Tribal BB

In our September 2018 report on broadband access on tribal lands, we found that FCC collects broadband availability data from broadband providers, but its method for collecting the data does not accurately or completely capture broadband access—the ability to obtain service—on tribal lands.9 Specifically, FCC directs fixed broadband providers to submit a list of census blocks where service is available on their Form 477 filings. In the Form 477 instructions, FCC defines “available”10 as whether the provider does—or could, within a typical service interval or without an extraordinary commitment of resources—provide service to at least one end-user premises in a census block.11 Thus, in its annual reports and maps of fixed broadband service, FCC considers an entire block to be served if a provider reports that it does, or could offer, service to at least one household in the census block. As shown in figure 1, FCC’s definition of availability leads to overstatements of fixed broadband availability on tribal lands by: (1) counting an entire census block as served if only one location has broadband, and (2) allowing providers to report availability in blocks where they do not have any infrastructure connecting homes to their networks if the providers determine they could offer service to at least one household. FCC has noted that overstatements of availability can be particularly problematic in rural areas, where census blocks cover larger areas.

BB_Overstatment

According to FCC officials, FCC requires providers to report fixed broadband availability where they could provide service to: (1) ensure that it captures instances in which a provider has a network nearby but has not installed the last connection to the homes, and (2) identify where service is connected to homes, but homes have not subscribed. FCC officials also told us that FCC measures availability at the census block level because sub-census block data may be costly to collect. However, FCC acknowledged that by requiring a provider to report where it could provide service, it is not possible to tell whether the provider would be unable or unwilling to take on additional subscribers in a census block it lists as served.12 In addition, when reporting on broadband access in tribal lands,13 FCC uses the broadband availability data described above, and does not collect information on factors that FCC and tribal stakeholders have stated can affect broadband access.14 These factors include affordability, service quality, and service denials.

By developing and implementing methods for collecting and reporting accurate and complete data on broadband access specific to tribal lands, FCC would be better able to target federal broadband funding to tribal areas that need it the most. We recommended FCC develop and implement methods for collecting and reporting accurate and complete data on broadband access specific to tribal lands. FCC agreed with this recommendation and stated that it is exploring methods to collect more granular broadband deployment data.

Electric Coops Elbow Into Broadband Debate

— One point of contention as lawmakers reconcile competing versions of the farm bill ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline is whether to take up the Senate or House version of the bill’s broadband provisions. While groups like USTelecom and NCTA that represent big internet service providers favor the Senate provisions, electric cooperatives, which are increasingly getting into the broadband business, say the House got it right. Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, told John that the Senate bill, which says a community must lack broadband over 90 percent of its territory before receiving a federal broadband loan, is “way too restrictive.” He lauded the House version for making federal aid contingent on evolving broadband speeds and in using population density to prioritize grant funding.

— Electric coops are “a little frustrated” with how the FCC has managed its billions in broadband subsidies, Matheson added, particularly how the agency relies on census tracts and self-reported ISP data in determining which areas receive coverage and thus are eligible for federal subsidies. Although he’s pleased with how ecoops did in the second phase of the FCC’s Connect America Fund auction (funding awards were announced last month), he thinks the FCC has a ways to go. “For all the universal service money that’s been spent—it’s been over $100 billion since 2000—you’ve still got a bunch of rural America without broadband,” he said.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech [Emphasis Added]

See the highlighted text. Why have we failed our rural citizens?  Not enough voting clout? Thoughts?

Best Telco Rural Broadband Strategy?

While all the major 5G carriers, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile will use similar core infrastructure to create physical networks the chosen frequency spectrums and the strategic focus are different.

“T-Mobile will attempt to roll out 5G nationwide with a 600MHz low-band service that will prioritize coverage over gigabit speeds.”

“Verizon will target dense urban areas first with very fast millimeter-wave broadband speeds” Verizon millimeter wave licenses are in 28GHz and 39GHz bands.

“AT&T plans to provide 5G services—featuring high speeds and latencies below 10 milliseconds—that utilize millimeter-wave spectrum at 39 GHz.”

It is hard to consider 600 MHz as the 5G spectrum as it does not provide the higher bandwidth and speeds which are promoted at 5G advantages. However, it does have some rural merit. Signals at 600Mhz travel longer distances and can penetrate foliage, windows, and walls. This is an advantage in rural areas were user density is sparse. However, at the current time, T-Mobile is more focused on mobile use rather than fixed service use. You will need a 5G phone to use this service.

In contrast, Verizon is planning to roll out fixed use services and compete with the cable companies to provide access and content. There seem to be little interest in expanding into rural communities, beyond the 4G LTE services they provide today. They are deploying small cells using mmWave with 100 to the 250-meter range which does not make sense for rural service.

Also, AT&T expects its 5G deployments to operate in the millimeter-wave spectrum with transmitters sites that will be within 150-250 meters of each other. AT&T plans to provide 5G services—featuring high speeds and latencies below 10 milliseconds—that utilize millimeter-wave spectrum at 39 GHz, which does not propagate signals nearly as well as the lower-band 700MHz signals used in mobile service.

The rural service outlook is somewhat murky, with AT&T and Verizon focused short distance mmWave spectrum and T-Mobile using their long distance 600MHz spectrum for mobile service. Stay Tuned, as market forces often result in strategic changes.

California Lawmakers Ease the Rules for Rural Munis

Community Networks

Let the People Serve the People

California’s community service districts (CSDs) are independent local governments created by folks in unincorporated areas. CDSs provide services that would otherwise be provided by a municipality. Residents usually join together to form a CSD and do so to establish services such as water and wastewater management, garbage collection, fire protection, or similar services. A CSD also has the ability to create an enhanced infrastructure financing district (EIFD) in order to finance the development of a broadband network.

The EIFD statute granting the authority allows communities, including CSDs, to join together regional projects for a range of financing purposes. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and various bonding mechanisms are a few examples.

The law currently on the books, which AB 1999 will change, requires CSDs to first determine that no private entity or person is willing to offer broadband in their sector before they are allowed to invest to do so. If they manage to get past the requirement but an entity or person enters the picture and is willing to provide those services, the CSD must sell or lease the infrastructure they’ve developed. AB 1999 will remove the “private sector first” requirement and allow CSDs to finance, build, and operate broadband networks in rural areas.

[Emphasis added by editor]

In addition to the changes in how CSD investment can be handled, the bill establishes that networks developed by CSDs must adhere to network neutrality policies.

On to the Governor

The bill worked its way through the committee process with strong support and along the way our Christopher Mitchell testified to lawmakers. You can listen to his testimony and a short discussion of the bill in the Communications and Conveyance Committee here. When AB 1999 appeared before the General Assembly for its final vote, lawmakers passed it 57 – 22.

Governor Jerry Brown now has 12 days to sign, approve without signing, or veto AB 1999. If you live in California, especially if you’re in a rural region, you can still support this measure by contacting the Governor’s office and letting him know that you want him to support and/or sign AB 1999.

This change in the “private sector first” provision is highly significant, the question is will communities take advantage of the  “A CSD also has the ability to create an enhanced infrastructure financing district (EIFD) in order to finance the development of a broadband network.”

Your thoughts?

 

Digital Cities: Building the New Public Infrastructure

Broadband section of white paper by CISCO.

Laying the Foundation: Public Wi-Fi and Next-Gen Broadband

At just 3 percent or, $59 billion, of Digital Value at Stake, public Wi-Fi and broadband offer modest direct value for cities. But that low percentage belies far more significant indirect benefits, which is why public Wi-Fi and broadband underpin our discussion of digital capabilities.

Direct benefits of municipal networks come mainly through avoiding the high costs of leased lines and carrier-provided network services. In some cases, such as the City of Santa Monica’s, the city itself acts as an Internet service provider to residents and local businesses, drawing in additional revenue.

Barcelona’s more than 300 miles of fiber optic cable, for example, enable its many smart services, including water, energy, waste, and transportation management, as well as open government. This network is critical to smart lighting, public Wi-Fi, and the city’s nearly 20,000 smart utility meters.

Santa Monica’s mayor, Tony Vazquez, stresses that the city’s extensive investment in fast broadband “returned significant benefits for our community health, safety, education, and wellbeing as well as for stimulating and sustaining our local economy.” He cites CityNet as the catalyst for a vibrant startup community that has been dubbed “Silicon Beach.”

Virginia Beach, Virginia, is laying hundreds of miles of fiber optic cable to link almost 100 municipal buildings with high-speed broadband. City officials anticipate that the network will promote economic and educational opportunities, while speeding emergency response times and enabling traffic management. It is also supports their strategy of bridging the “digital divide” to fight inequality.

As of 2017, Seoul is offering free Wi-Fi in every public place, including subway cars and buses. The city sees public Wi-Fi as a cornerstone of its Open Data Plaza, an online channel where information is shared on everything from economic opportunities to available parking spaces.

Guayaquil is expanding its fiber-optic network and will soon provide free Wi-Fi to the entire city. One of the many benefits has been a telemedicine capability that allows patients in local clinics to receive expert diagnoses from major hospitals.

Full paper can be downloaded HERE.

Rural communities need to fully examine the benefits of a public network as an economic development tool. Build it and the entrepreneurs will come.