Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Underbuilding, States BEAD Posturing, and Hot Topics in Community Networks - Episode 509 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by senior staff on the broadband initiative to dig into recent topics, including Senior Reporter, Editor and Communications Team Lead Sean Gonsalves, Community Broadband Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar, and Senior Researcher and Research Team Lead Ry Marcattilio-McCracken.
The group talks about the value of overlapping networks and the co-option of the word "overbuilding" by monopoly lobbyists, the recent New York State funding program kickstarting municipal broadband efforts in a handful of communities, how states are responding (or not) to the NTIA process to get hundreds of millions in federal broadband infrastructure funding, and a new tool we built to help keep tabs on funds released from the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
This show is 36 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Christopher Mitchell (00:08):
All right, shape up you now. Contente <laugh>. Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcasts. Boy, it sounds good to say that it's been a while. Cause I pre-recorded a bunch of 'em, and as anytime I say pre-record now I think of George Carlin. It's like, when else are you gonna record it afterwards? George Carlin Rest in Peace. This is Christopher Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in St. Paul, Minnesota. And we've got a what do they call it? A a bubble episode or like one of those episodes in like a TV sitcom where it's just like the people sitting around in the, in the room. bottle episode. And but actually this is gonna be way better cuz Sean is fired up. Sean Gonsalves is joining us. Welcome.
Sean Gonsalves (00:51):
Thank you. Thank you. I'm, I'm, I'm ready to preheat the oven.
Christopher Mitchell (00:55):
<laugh> Sean is handles a lot of our communications. He does a ton of writing on muni networks.org and and generally keeps us you know, I would say there, there's a reality check often on how bad my podcasts are to my face, which I appreciate. <laugh> we <laugh> we'll talk about that. we got DeAnne Cuellar welcome one
DeAnne Cuellar (01:16):
Journal, good Day
Christopher Mitchell (01:18):
Doing outreach work, thinking a lot about how communities can take advantage of helping them get the resources they need and strategizing and stuff like that. I am, anything I'm missing there? Holding us together.
DeAnne Cuellar (01:30):
<laugh>. Thank you.
Christopher Mitchell (01:31):
And then we got Ry, the, the doctor, professor Ryerson. Welcome.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken (01:36):
Chris, it's it's an incomplete day when we don't get to talk six or eight times, so it's good to be here.
Christopher Mitchell (01:41):
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken, definitely the best name at ILSR. and certainly within the program. welcome everyone. we're gonna talk about a variety of different topics we're gonna move through. you've probably been more than usual but I would like to start with a fiery one, and then maybe we'll come up with a fiery one. Sean, I was I was talking to these folks the other day and they say that that they're planning to overbuild the cable network. just, just curious if you think that's a good idea or not.
Sean Gonsalves (02:10):
It's an excellent idea. It's a, it's, it's a, it's a horrible idea to keep using a word that opponents of municipal broadband love to trot out. And frankly, you know, I
Christopher Mitchell (02:21):
Think you mean of government owned networks, <laugh>.
Sean Gonsalves (02:24):
Yes. Yes. God, the idea, you know, what we, you know, people need to understand that anytime they hear the word overbuild, it means competition. And it's an engineering term that's been hijacked by the telecom monopolist to make it sound like it, it's this horrible thing to have competition that somehow it's a waste of money to build networks that compete with one another. And so, it just, it, it drives me crazy when I hear people in this space, particularly advocates for municipal and publicly owned broadband networks, use th this term that way. It, it, it drives me crazy.
Christopher Mitchell (03:06):
It does. And, and it's appropriate. I'm gonna argue with you. even though I agree ve eminently with you, and I also I'm gonna, I'm gonna jump all around. It's gonna be very rare for me not to hold a fixed position. I realized nobody will be used to this. but I've, I myself have gotten lazy about this lately. And and I welcome you to call me on it if it keeps happening. but I, I would say that there's another thing that, that you didn't mention, which is, it's ridiculous to talk about over-building. I mean, maybe if you're talking about a really modern well-run cable network you know, one might think of a fiber network as being competitive to it in some ways but often, in many cases this term might be used where you're talking about building a four-lane interstate where you've got a dirt road and, and these aren't even comparable networks that one can talk about.
And just because some company happen to build it first there, they have like the eternal rights to, to be the soul network in that area. so, but let me push back on you, right? Like, I feel like 10 years ago there was a lot of effort, I'm a lot of effort put into rebranding net neutrality cuz people were like, the term is boring, people don't understand what it is, it's complicated. Who wants to be for net neutrality? Who wants to be for neutrality? And at the time I was like, this is ridiculous. Like, like, we need to win. We don't need to argue about words. And, and I felt like on that issue, I was like, like, and I was right. I mean, we can say in history because like millions of people turned out in favor of net neutrality, even though we never found a better term for it. and so you know, what is, what do you say to that? The idea of just like, yeah, like the, the, the word's not great, but people know what it means and, and who cares? Let's just move on and get the work done.
DeAnne Cuellar (04:42):
The problem with it is that it sticks. I think that's the part that's frustrating for communicators, right? Or people that do communications, is that I, I mean, may we, maybe we should make a list of other sectors where things stick. But like, what's interesting about working in broadband equity is that the, the, the top line messages of monopoly ISPs stick, right? So the term overbuild and overinvestment comes from them and not us, but it's frustrating to go into meetings and try to be like coming up with alternative solutions or just trying to solve a, a problem and like hearing a decision maker using talking points from a monopoly. I think that's what's really frustrating is that it sticks and I, and, and it's like I, I go to the grocery store. I don't complain that there's multiple brands of salsa <laugh>, you know what I mean? But like, I can go into a meeting and like, overinvestment over building is a, is a message <laugh>.
Sean Gonsalves (05:35):
Yeah, great point. And, and, but, you know, points well taken, Chris. I mean, you know, what's that? Well, I don't, I can't remember that quote. You know, about something about, you know, you know, if you, you've got a small mind, if you can't sort of hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time, something to that effect. And, and, and, and both, and both things that you're saying are correct. We shouldn't get too caught up in arguing about terminology and actually get stuff done
Christopher Mitchell (05:55):
Except for where it's important <laugh>
Sean Gonsalves (05:57):
Except for where it's important. Exactly. And it turned out that it wasn't so important with net neutrality, although I would argue it's because that word neutrality is just a appealing word to people. People like the idea, you know, you know when you hear, especially in an environment where you hear these arguments about government shouldn't be picking sides. There are there, there, there, you know, there should be neutrality. you know, there needs to be a neutral third party. So I think that word itself is warm to people's ears, but the term overbuilding itself suggests that you're doing something unnecessary. And that is the problem that I have with that term. And I, I frankly don't like to, I don't like to let people get away with, with, with, with stuff like that. And I, and I really don't like when people, and I don't care what their pedigree is or how many letters they have after their name, you're not gonna tell me what to call something. I have a perfectly good grasp of the English language. I know all kinds of the rhetorical tricks that people use. And I'm gonna call people on it when, when, when I hear it being done. Well,
DeAnne Cuellar (06:56):
I was just gonna say, if I had to thank anybody for helping us win net neutrality, it, I would thank the musicians
Christopher Mitchell (07:02):
<laugh>. Yes. Yeah. The artists, the musicians, I think were tremendous on that. And, and some of them that are, you know, continuing to work with like fight for the Future and and orgs free press. I mean a lot of these folks have done great work. just one second.
Sean Gonsalves (07:17):
Imagine if we could get some, some celebrities and artists to make a song about muni broadband or, or, or, or, or stick out on this issue instead of taking these lucrative contracts from the telecom giants to tout their latest product. Right. Which you see all over social media.
DeAnne Cuellar (07:35):
I accept that challenge.
Christopher Mitchell (07:36):
We shouldn't use that language. Absolutely not. it's, I think it's, it's not helpful and especially when, I guess the final point that I would just put on it cuz there's so much more we could say about it, but we're gonna move on is that in many cases we need overlapping networks, right? Like in some places people are never gonna take service from Comcast cause they hate Comcast. Even low income folks don't want that, you know, internet essentials, even if they don't have to pay for it. And other people are never gonna take a network from the government, right? Because like, they don't trust the government cuz of whether it's misplaced or not, fears of spying and, and that sort of a thing. so I think the idea that that we have that's sort of like, oh, we just got this one perfect network, everything would be great. No, that's not accurate and that's not how the internet should work. We should have overlapping networks that have different tasks and, and I firmly believe that. And I'll fight anyone on it. <laugh>,
Sean Gonsalves (08:27):
Christopher Mitchell (08:29):
I wanna ask Ry about the big list. we just updated that recently and that's really cool. What is the big list and did anything strike you as really interesting about it?
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken (08:38):
Since or late last summer, we've been tracking community led American rescue plan based broadband projects, infrastructure projects. And we had a milestone within the last week or so with 250 projects on that big list. so we're tracking 200 different 50 different communities around the country doing some sort of broadband project using the rescue plan dollars. Some of them are exciting. We're seeing some municipal networks starting out funding expansions finishing up with rescue plan money. Some stuff is less exciting, the distribution of more hotspots and giving away money to the monopoly providers in, in certain areas. So it's kind of a mixed bag, but it's exciting to see the good projects on that list.
Christopher Mitchell (09:21):
And one of the, one of the great uses of this money so far has been both Baltimore and Detroit planning to use that money and hopefully soon breaking ground on projects to build networks to low income folks that have been totally left out. And their states have access to many more, hundreds of millions of dollars. And in both cases, Maryland and Michigan I think are actually not all that supportive of, of trying to solve this problem in some of their largest cities. which is I think, really frustrating for many of us that there are good rules that the federal government has put in place in many cases from the rescue plan dollars, but we see states under the thrall of big cable and telephone companies or just regular politics going after rural voters and not caring about urban voters. I think leading to less opportunities than we would like to see in major metropolitan areas. Sean's done some interesting work, you know, just looking at what's happening in New York state. Sean, what's going on there?
Sean Gonsalves (10:25):
It's actually pretty exciting. initially, you know, I I, I had just saw the amount that was being put in and not without having thought about what it actually means, which is that New York is venturing into municipal broadband for the, for the first time
Christopher Mitchell (10:38):
Municipal fiber for the first time, right? Because we still got, we still got Tupper Lakes sitting up there, and there might be another one or two that we're not
Sean Gonsalves (10:43):
Familiar with municipal fiber, right? That's an important distinction, but municipal fiber. And so, you know, we've written about the connect all initiative, which is the state grant program that the governor announced and the, and was passed in the state budget bill in April. It's a $1 billion investment in broadband, which is the largest effort investment in broadband in New York. And part of what the state budget bill did is created an ecosystem to cultivate municipal broadband networks. And a couple of weeks ago, the governor and various other officials, it's a, it's a whole consortium of folks working together on this, the empire State Development Office, the Development Authority of North Count north Country, the Southern Tier network, and the New York Power Authority. And essentially what it is allowing for is for these nonprofit Middle mile network providers to work together to really provide back haul for, for municipalities who would like to build out last mile connections.
And that's exactly what's going on. And so a couple of weeks ago they announced a 10 million grant award to four different counties, and they're going to build a municipal fiber to the home network in Sherburn, I think I'm pronouncing that correctly, Sherburn the village of Sherburn in New York, which is in basically the central part of the state. And they're gonna be building out to 1800 homes and businesses. And because they got this money, this was something that the, the, the village itself does have an existing municipal utility, sherburn electric. And part of what was driving the, the push for this in, in, in, in the town even prior to this grant award, was wa them wanting to have a modern communications system to, so that their electric utility operates much better. and, but with the infusion of the money that they'll get from this grant, it is going to allow them for what they thought was gonna be a four year process of kind of doing it on their own to actually building out this network within the next year.
they're looking at an open access model and then to lease out to net the network to internet service providers who'd like to provide retail service. You know, I'm sure you can talk about some of the challenges that go along with that, particularly in small communities that build open access networks and sometimes the difficulty in getting, you know, multiple providers to wanna operate on that network. But nevertheless, they're moving forward and they're hoping that by October the network will have been built out and they'll start lighting up some of their first customers. So the big deal really is that New York is making this foray into fiber to the home municipal fiber to the home.
Christopher Mitchell (13:22):
That's gonna be the focus of an upcoming show. We're gonna be focused talking with folks from Empire State Development about some of these projects and what's moving forward. but I wanted to ask you did you learn any interesting facts in interrupting the mayor on his morning Constitutional
Sean Gonsalves (13:39):
<laugh>? Yeah, he was, he was walking this morning and I actually called Sherburne Electric looking to speak to anybody, and they said, hold on a minute, let me see who I can put you in touch with. And then she put me in touch with the mayor and he answered this phone on the first ring. And I think it's, it, you know, that kind of like small community connectivity meaning, you know, in the larger scheme of things, I think is one of the things that is so attractive about these kind of networks where you can actually call people and talk to people in the local community and there's a sense of accountability and a sense of responsibility to one another to, to meet the needs of that particular community. You know, they're early on in the process. And so for example, you know, they're not exactly sure if the grant money is going to cover the cost of construction for the entire network, but I can tell you that they are determined to move forward and build out this network in, in, in any way possible. Certainly the infusion of money from the state means that it's going to speed things along pretty quickly. And although the mayor didn't say anything about this, that area is served by Charter and Frontier and, you know, given the track record of those companies and other areas, I'm quite sure that they
Christopher Mitchell (14:52):
Sean Gonsalves (14:53):
They are underbuilt and folks are tired of it and would like to see there be ubiquitous access to high speed internet connectivity at, at, at reasonable rates. They haven't got to the point yet where they've started dis discussing rates. affordability, a certainly, you know, a, you know, a top priority in building out this network. I think they're, you know, the mayor also is very much aware that they are for the tip of the spear as it relates to this experiment, shall we say, in New York with municipal fiber to the home project. So they're, so, they are acutely aware of that and are really interested in making sure they get this right, because if they don't, it could certainly have, you know, some cascading effects in terms of what other communities think about as this being an alternative to relying on the local Monopoly provider.
Christopher Mitchell (15:41):
So we're gonna learn more about that. Also, I suspect, I don't know for sure, but we're gonna learn a lot about what's happening in New York on June 28th for those of us who will be going to the event in Binghamton. there's Southern Tier eight is having an event there. they're also looking at doing some interesting things. So for people who have an ability to, to get to Binghamton that's gonna be cool. And while I'm at it, I should just note that the 21st and 22nd of June gonna see some cool event in Cleveland joint event from I believe Pew and Charitable Trusts and with Kathryn de Wit and next Century Cities sponsoring that event. So this show that will come out right after, I think you and I have left Nashville for the fiber connection. So we, we won't plug that, but I'm looking forward to that show. but speaking of what states are doing, I feel like, you know, the opposite of New York might be Texas in a variety of ways. Deanne, you've been given a lot of thought to what Texas is gonna do with the I I J A money trying to track that down. What are you hearing?
DeAnne Cuellar (16:47):
Well, I'm, I'm hearing that there's more than one state, more than just Texas, that wants to pass on funding to build community broadband infrastructure, and we really won't know what's gonna happen until the deadline passes. So what we're doing is we're encouraging communities that live in those states to get ready with their own letters of intent. So we've been studying what happens next. And so what happens next is that communities need to be ready to file their own separate letter of intent as political subdivisions. so I think for me as a, as a community organizer and someone working at the, you know, grassroots to the beltway in that direction is what I also learned in this process is like, how the political subdivision is defined is different state by state. So I think there's the, there's the good and bad to that, but I, so what organ what communities and organizations should be doing right now is trying to figure out, like, do they have the legal know-how to file letters of intent when the deadline passes?
It's June, they should be wor. And so July 18th is not that far away. They should be working on that now, and they should also be working really closely with a telecommunication policy lawyer or analyst or whoever they can get to, to like, to see like what, what list of organizations or political subdivisions can file those letters of intent. so I think there's an opportunity in the chaos here for local communities to really get creative. I, and on the other side of it, I think that for lack of better words, it just really sucks that there there are geographies that are willing to pass on resources on infrastructure. And that's a whole other issue that deserves whole other podcast. So I, you know, there's more than one thing happening here with, with states. And then LA I think the last thing I would point to is that, unless I'm wrong, y'all can tell me this. I think the majority of the states that are rumored to be passing on this funding are mostly states in the south, which are mostly we're communities of color that need the rural and urban that needs these resources the most. So it's, it's, it's a, it's a, it's a thing.
Sean Gonsalves (18:56):
Yeah, that's a great point. You know, one thing you, you mentioned about you know, political subdivisions within states you know, get, have, having, needing to get creative if, if, particularly if it's in a state that is gonna bypass on the, on the bead funds. One thing that we did learn at Mountain Connect was from Alan Davidson, the N T I A secretary or assistant secretary was that the Middle Mile infrastructure program that, that NOFO was also released. Community local communities can apply for that money directly. Like they don't it. So, you know, the bead money goes to the states, but the Middle Mile infrastructure program is available for lo local communities, I believe, to be able to apply directly to the N T I A so that, you know, in that limited capacity, that's an avenue of possibility for, for, even for states who opt out of the bead money.
DeAnne Cuellar (19:42):
That's a really good point. And I think the other, the other thing that we, we need to do at, at I L S R for the Community Broadband Network initiative team is that, is gently be reminding people that, like, I think it was you or Chris mentioned that like these proposals should be like very attractive proposals on how they're going to create community solutions, right? And so really like taking the time to like flesh them out with local communities of like all, all, all of the solutions. So I've seen a lot of Middle Mile and last mile proposals, which is fantastic, but I also like re reminding people that like, there's still resources available for like launching a digital navigator model, putting an investment into deploying devices through, you know, out into the community, like lots of devices and literacy programs that already exist. So just making sure that they're looking at all three legs of the stool.
Christopher Mitchell (20:31):
Yeah, I wanted to chime in that I'm, I'm looking at a map from May 18th that tele competitor put out. I think N T I A actually may have released it over social media at one point. And you know, at that point, 34 states had submitted letters of intent or 34 jurisdictions, cuz Puerto Rico is one of them. Texas and Florida are, did not most of the states of the south did, you know I don't know if you consider Oklahoma part of the south, but they have not as of then South Carolina had not, and Virginia had not, I can't imagine that Virginia wouldn't I'm curious. I mean, I feel like what we see, and I, and I, I'll own up to the fact that I think the bead program is burdensome, and if I was a state, I'd be pretty upset at how much it's pushing down on me.
And I don't, you know, I don't think it's a very well-crafted program in, in multiple ways, but it's Florida and Texas that are the ones who are making a big deal out of it. And I gotta think it's just the governors looking for some way to distinguish themselves as being like the bigger person against government pork. And, you know, like, and who cares if millions of families in in those states don't get connected, that governor's gonna have something to try and distinguish themselves you know you know, as a, as a crusader against government overreach and, and whatnot. And my point in using this the voice is just that I, I don't think this are feelings that are sincerely held. It's, it's crass partisan politics that are leading to these decisions which is unfortunate because we don't get the benefit then of N T I A feeling pressure to reform some of those problematic aspects of the, the bead program.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken (22:00):
I've, you know, I've been taking note about how closely your and Sean's kind of alternative personality voice come out when you start you know, using the vocabulary of the, of the more ridiculous side. You both kind of lean back and your shoulders get get a little straighter and you're, you know, pretty soon you'll be indistinguishable <laugh>. Exactly.
Sean Gonsalves (22:19):
<laugh>. Well, well, the one difference is, is that when I do it, I, I listeners won't know this, but I'm, I twirl my mustache at the same time.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken (22:27):
Christopher Mitchell (22:28):
Sean, you must have very little fingers to twirl that mustache. <laugh>
Sean Gonsalves (22:31):
Christopher Mitchell (22:33):
So, speaking of politics Gigi, so has still not been confirmed. you know, we are recently talking with a couple of other organizations and and there was someone made a, a reference to the Title two proceeding once There's a Fifth Commissioner, and I was like, yeah, I don't know if there's gonna be a Title two proceeding. Like, I mean, I, I didn't write anything, but I was just, in my head, I was like, yeah, maybe like, maybe we just won't see the FCC do anything. You know, the Biden administration seems to be very content to do nothing on this. it's not the only place the Biden administration has been dere elected multiple oversight organizations. I just saw another one, I don't think it was a cftc the commodities future trading something. but there's another like significant oversight board where companies are just engaging in like abuse of their customers.
And the Biden administration just hasn't deigned to you know, confirm anyone. when, when Donald Trump failed to get confirmations through we use it as evidence of his incompetence and manifest unfit for government. And boy, it sucks watching the Biden administration just miss these opportunities. not to say they don't have challenges, but like, if you wanna be the president, you gotta step up and be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. and I I I feel like there's sort of one explanation, which is that they're busy or they don't know what they're doing. And the other explanation which I'm leaning more and more toward is that they're, they're doing this cynically, they're doing this to curry favor with the cable and telephone companies. you know, they don't want to upset the companies by by acting too strongly against them in too many different fields. And they're just leaving the fcc you know, abandoned because it's like a giveaway to the companies that are writing them big checks. so
DeAnne Cuellar (24:20):
I couldn't agree with you more, like I honestly believe Chris, that's what's going on is that, you know, I'm, I'm not gonna name names of companies like that. We've had these arguments with locally, but one of the things that I try to explain to people when you're doing broadband equity work and you're having to go up against Monopoly ISPs, is that decision makers have like an emotional connection to these companies. Like, like they, like, they like growing up with Coca-Cola and, and so it's really hard to get them, like at the, the further you climb on the political spectrum doing this work, you you find out that like, it's, it's really difficult and, and I know it's not apples to apples, like when we're saying like, you know, the, there's this whole other like, horrible thing going on with you know, with gun ownership and the nra, it's not the same. However, like, it, it, it does feel as an advocate just as difficult to try to like break the seal.
Christopher Mitchell (25:12):
And I, I would just head onto that to say that I think one of the issues is that there's a sense that connecting everyone's a really big problem. We, the only way we can do it is with a really big company. And, and it's just flawed thinking because the best way to do it, we see this in the Energy program as well, when you really need a lot of things to happen in a lot of places, a distributed solution is the best solution to have tons of people acting with the same goals in parallel. So you don't have these pipelines that are like getting clogged and single points of failure. And elected leaders don't get that. They don't think like that. They think we need big government, we need big solutions, we need big companies. And I don't feel like there's a political party that appreciates that. you know, thinking distributed is is much smarter, particularly in this century.
DeAnne Cuellar (25:57):
You gave me a this is before I worked over here at I l S Harbor. You gave me an excellent talking point that helped me in my work not too long ago. And you said, you know, depending on Monopoly, ISPs is like putting McDonald's in charge of ending hunger. And I, to this day stick to that talking point because I, it really resonates and I've used it in meetings and I, I want people that are listening to this podcast to, to, to think about that because it makes a whole lot of common sense.
Christopher Mitchell (26:26):
Yeah, I, I sort of laid this out in an article in nonprofit quarterly called The Signal Failure, which is still one of the articles I'm most proud of. I just feel like it really made a strong argument. You know, I'm, I'm u I'm usually make pretty weak arguments. I just shout really loud. and that one I, I really worked hard at. So the, some other things we wanted to talk about the connect this series I just wanted to say we're, we're continuing to do that, and I don't know how many people here watch or listen to that, but it's fun and we got some really great shows that, that are still relevant from the past. And so I wanted to, to plug that quick. rye is taking on the duties of producing it after Henry has left us for a different field.
And and anyway, we're trying to keep that up, and so I wanna make sure people are still poking over there. Occasionally we've done something that's really cool, and I think actually maybe a signal of some other things we'll be doing in the future around tracking data. with rise Team Christine and Emma have both brought a real enthusiasm to using this thing called Tableau, and that's about as much as I know about it. So I'm gonna <laugh> hand it over to Ry for maybe a, a sense of what we're doing with the rural digital opportunity funding from the Federal Communications Commission but also where how we might be using that more in the future.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken (27:47):
We're, we're all talking about bid all the time, it seems like right now, but it's important to remember that there's there are billions of dollars in r d a funding that is going through the various processes of getting things approved and then, you know, bids those bids, those winning bids that were back in December of 2020 getting authorized. And so, you know, there are people in this world that don't get excited about opening up a spreadsheet, and I am one of those people. And so it's nice to have the expertise of other folks on the research team to take those regular data releases, which I've gotta say the FCC just makes super easy to handle. if I'm being sarcastic there, if you can't tell from the tone of my voice,
Christopher Mitchell (28:25):
You didn't throw your shoulders back, so I didn't get it. <laugh>
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken (28:28):
Taking those the data which, you know, are difficult to wade through for a layperson, and then putting them, you know, in an easy to understand way. And so essentially what we've done is we've created a a realtime roff dashboard tracker using the fcc releases, which are happening in a regular fashion, and and turning them into something that you can interact with in a way that's hopefully useful to you, whether you're a local official or a local broadband champion, or you're just trying to get a sense of what's going on with all the money in the states. And so that tracker is live on our website, muni network, new muni networks.org, and you can go there and see not only a map of the US and how much money we'll be going out through ARD ddo over the course of the next 10 years by state, but you can see who the top 10 bidders were during that auction, that reverse auction, and then also who's gotten funds authorized so far. And so that data is manipulable and you can build your own custom spreadsheets using Tableau and download it. And it's it's very exciting to be able to add this kind of capacity and this tool to our toolbox.
Christopher Mitchell (29:33):
Right. And just to be clear about that term authorized you know, there was an auction and the Federal Communications Commission under chairperson Ajit Pi decided that it would be awesome if we didn't pre-qualify people and make sure they could actually make good on it. And we just sort of see what happened. And what happened was a number of companies got one bids and it's not clear that they have the capacity to to actually achieve the goals that, that they have said they can do. And the FCC is evaluating those. And so the fccs evaluat, I, I believe, authorized about half of the money, is that right? rise nodding 54%, and so a little bit more than half. And you can tell the top bidders often haven't been fully authorized yet, or in some cases I've been authorized at all.
Yet, as the FCC continues to try to decide whether they have the technical competence and other factors that are needed before they authorize the money we would expect to see that some of those awards may be canceled based on the FCC not being convinced that the company has an ability to perform. But we have no sense of the time scale. So this is something you can check in from time to time to just get a sense of where are we in terms of those A off awards going out the door
Sean Gonsalves (30:49):
Again? Yeah. 1, 1 1, 1 thing as it relates to that, that I, that I'm sort of particularly interested in is how the ad off funding will interact or interplay with the with the bead funding. Because my understanding is, is that, you know, areas that or projects that are being funded with RDO money are not, you can't use bead money for those same areas. And so, and it sounded like Alan Davidson was saying that they, the N T I A was gonna defer to the F T C in term of, you know, in terms of, of, of how that will shake out and not, you know, in, in what was the word he used? D d de conflict.
Christopher Mitchell (31:22):
Sean Gonsalves (31:23):
De conflict. Yes. I feel
Christopher Mitchell (31:24):
Like, I feel like I'm, I, I'm just hearing you tell me that we should have John Chambers on to like go through some of this stuff because he tracks it so well, and he's a good communicator to like, explain what's happening and what he sees happening with these conflicts because what I'm very curious about is whether there is a method of de conflicting via the fcc, because I feel like Ntia is like, Hey guys, we're doing a better job than you. You should just stop awarding money in these areas where, where, you know, it's not gonna be as good. And I, I don't know if the FCC has a mechanism for de conflicting the way that N T I A wants them to. And I don't know, there might be an audience of 10 people for that show, but I'm gonna serve them <laugh>.
Sean Gonsalves (32:06):
The, the, the reason why it's interesting to me is because I, you know, especially considering that the timelines with the stuff seems to be a little fuzzy, but you know, it, it would be, you know, worst case scenario is that there's a, you know, an ador project that doesn't cut the mustard, and then also that the, the, you know, folks in that particular area lose out on bead funding and then they get left, left in the dust, you know, in, in, in all of this. And that would be, you know, the worst case scenario for, for, for a community. So that, that, that's the reason why it's interesting to me, or, you know, to, to see how that stuff shakes out.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken (32:37):
Yeah. I just wanted to, you know, maybe end on a positive, positive note with with Roff and say that a lot of the big monopoly providers have gotten all their money, and so we'll see what shakes out with them. but there are also a lot of cooperatives that are, that are, have gotten their money released, including some of the big consortiums that bid in the auction. and then you know, a muni here and there. So Reedsburg Wisconsin is getting six and a half million over 10 years to build to 4,500 rural locations around town. So it's exciting to see, you know, in, if we're talking about distributed solutions, those those little winds peppered in there.
Christopher Mitchell (33:12):
Yes. And, and Reedsburg is a particularly good example because you set around town, but it's actually around not town because they've been doing a good job over the years of expanding to Sauk County in places that are quite rural around them and seeking state money. The Wisconsin grant programs, I think have been smart about mostly funding fiber projects, often from local companies including you know, Reedsburg. but Reedsburg was one of very few munis or tribes that were in Adolph, and I think it was unfriendly. I think those reverse auctions are challenging for smaller entities to navigate, and it's really exciting that at least Reedsburg got out the other end and is doing good work with that money. so any any other concluding comments? DeAnn?
DeAnne Cuellar (33:55):
No, I have nothing, but I, I was gonna say that I feel like we should bring back the term, cut the mustard now that Sean has said it. <laugh>
Christopher Mitchell (34:03):
<laugh>, slice of ketchup. Cut the mustard. All right. Well, it's been a, it's been a fun show, covered a bunch of different topics. I feel like Sean was a little bit less enthusiastic about shouting about overbuilding than he was in the pre-meeting, but that's what happens when you, you've got the steam out. We let the steam out too much beforehand.
Sean Gonsalves (34:21):
Well, no, it's just that most of my cranky energy is because the Warriors lost last night, and oh, it was rough. And Steph hurt his ankle.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that, that, that's got me in knots right now, so, and I'm, and I, of course, I live in Boston, Celtics Nation, so I, I I spend a lot of time go going to war with other, with Celtic fans.
Christopher Mitchell (34:43):
Well, we're, we feel, we feel it, Sean and, and I, I'm rooting for the Warriors for the, the sweep for the rest of the games, so,
Sean Gonsalves (34:51):
Christopher Mitchell (34:52):
All right. Well, thank you all for tuning in. It's been a fun episode. Thank you to my colleagues here at the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and hope you'll have a great week.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken (35:02):
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