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NTIA Says State Muni-Bans Won’t Delay BEAD Funding
The NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) insists that the 17 state laws that hamper nationwide community broadband deployments won’t delay a massive looming infusion of infrastructure broadband subsidies. But one industry group isn’t so sure.
BroadbandNow, a website dedicated to tracking the U.S. broadband industry, issued a report claiming that state restrictions on community broadband networks could delay the delivery of more than $42.45 billion in BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment) grants made possible by the recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
Such bills, often ghost written by the telecom industry by policy and lobbying intermediaries, often limit the construction or financing of community broadband networks, even in unserved areas that regional telecom monopolies have long neglected.
Covid’s home education and telecommuting boom highlighted the restrictive and often counterproductive nature of such bills, leading two states — Arkansas and Washington — to remove the barriers. And in Colorado earlier this month, Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 23-183 into law that eliminates an older 2005 law backed by regional telecom monopolies, which imposed cumbersome and onerous restrictions on Colorado towns and cities looking to build better, more affordable community-owned and operated broadband networks.
Massachusetts Broadband Coalition Is Formed With Focus on Public Private Partnerships
Representing 26 towns across Massachusetts, from Cape Cod to Chelsea, an informal group of mostly town officials have formed the Massachusetts Broadband Coalition in search of a way out of a broken broadband market to ensure everyone in their individual communities has access to high-speed Internet.
The newly-formed coalition has recently started to meet monthly to share information about what kind of alternatives there might be, or could be, to the big cable monopoly provider in their towns.
Questioning Monopoly Rules Without Reinventing the Wheel
The coalition, which held its first meeting in January, was convened by Robert Espindola, Fairhaven Selectmen and the board’s liaison to the town’s broadband study committee. And though the coalition is “in its infant stages,” as Espindola recently shared with ILSR, one common theme has emerged from each participating member.
“No doubt the common theme is: there’s no competition,” he said. “That’s how it started in Fairhaven for us. When we were negotiating our (franchise) agreement with Comcast, people in the community were asking: ‘why can’t we get competition?’”
When we first came together it was really more just to learn from each other, what each community was doing. And we wanted to see if we could find ways to work more efficiently and not reinvent the wheel.
Indeed, communities across the nation have set out to tackle local connectivity challenges head-on with a community broadband approach without having to reinvent the wheel. Some have built, or are building locally-controlled, publicly-owned open-access fiber networks to create the conditions for competition. Other cities and towns are building, maintaining, and operating their own successful municipal broadband networks. While still others have opted to enter into a public-private partnership with an independent ISP to build out a community-wide network.
Public-Private Partnerships Come into Focus
Mapping Deadlines, LA County, and Stuck in the Middle | Episode 62 of the Connect This! Show
Join us live on Friday, January 19th, at 2:00pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) and special guests Shayna Englin (California Community Foundation) and Geoff Wiggin to talk about the January 13th location challenge deadline, what's going on in LA County and with the California Public Utilities Commission, and what it's like to buy a house in Ohio and find yourself stuck in the middle of the area's Internet service providers.
Email us at email@example.com with feedback and ideas for the show.
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IN OUR VIEW: Friday the 13th Mapping Challenge Deadline Highlights Failed Process
Last Friday was a major milestone in the process of moving $42.5 billion from the federal government to states to distribute mostly to rural areas to build new, modern Internet access networks. January 13th marked the deadline for error corrections (called challenges) to the official national map that will be used to determine how much each state will get.
As an organization that has worked in nearly all 50 states over the past 20 years on policies to improve Internet access, we spent the last few weeks struggling to understand what was actually at stake and wondering if we were alone in being confused about the process. Despite the stakes, almost no expert we talked to actually understood which challenges – if any – would fix errors in the map data before it was used to allocate the largest single federal broadband investment in history.
Wireless Is Essential, But Fiber Remains the Future (For Now)
From the miraculous benefits of WiMax to the hype surrounding 5G, U.S. wireless companies have long promised near-Utopian levels of technological revolution.
Yet time after time these promises have fallen short, reminding a telecom sector all-too-familiar with hype that fiber optics remains, for now, the backbone of bridging the digital divide.
All States Now Have ‘Internet for All’ Planning Funds; Eyes Now on FCC Maps
As the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is set to unleash an unprecedented amount of federal funds to expand high-speed Internet access as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s “Internet for All” initiative, all 50 states and U.S. territories have now received their initial planning funds.
Just before Christmas, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is administering the broadband funds in the infrastructure bill, announced Massachusetts as the final state to receive its portion of the planning funds ($6 million) in a joint press conference with outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
ISPs Large and Small Push for Tax Exempt Broadband Grants
After years of efforts, the telecom industry and a range of independent broadband experts are making progress in a quest to make broadband grants tax exempt, a move industry players large and small say is necessary if the federal government wants the historic round of new federal broadband funding to benefit as many un- and under-served Americans as possible.
During previous broadband grant programs, such as the (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) BTOP and (Broadband Initiatives Program) BIP grants in 2010, the Internal Revenue Service had the authority to unilaterally exempt some grants from taxation.
A Tribal Wireless Network in Northern California - Episode 521 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Matthew Douglas, Broadband Manager at the Hoopa Valley Public Utility District. At the start of the pandemic, HVPUD launched a wireless network initiative using $2 million in CARES Act funds to benefit Tribal members who had poor or no connectivity options. Matthew shared the lessons they learned during the process (including at one of the first Tribal Wireless Bootcamps), including navigating old-growth forest, navigating equipment and signal challenges in a particularly grueling topography, working with vendors with things don't go as planned, and managing sector costs. Recently, the effort won an NTIA grant to embark on a new fiber work and a wireless backhaul build to bring in significant new capacity to increase speeds and resiliency in the region.
This show is 33 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.
Louisiana First State to Get BEAD Planning Funds as State GUMBO Grants Get Messy
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced earlier this week that Louisiana will be the first state in the nation to receive federal grant planning funds to help states prepare for the deployment of high-speed Internet infrastructure and digital skills training under the Biden Administration’s “Internet for All” initiative.
Enabled by last year's passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the $2.9 million heading to the Pelican State is from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Digital Equity Act (DEA) – a development Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said was a signal that “the Internet for All initiative is on track and on schedule.”
Over the coming weeks, every state and territory will have funding in hand as they begin to build grant-making capacity, assess their unique needs, and engage with diverse stakeholders to make sure that no one is left behind. My thanks go to Governor Edwards and his team; Louisiana was among the first to sign onto Internet for All and to apply for funding, and I know they’re ready to get to work for the people of Louisiana.
According to NTIA’s press announcement, $2 million of the planning funds being allocated to Louisiana come from the BEAD program and will help the state:
NTIA Rejects Grafton County, New Hampshire Bid, Officials Seek Other Funding for Middle Mile Network
One way or another, Grafton County, New Hampshire is lining up funding to build a massive new middle-mile network county officials hope will drive broadband competition—and more affordable fiber—into long underserved New Hampshire communities.
Grafton was one of 230 U.S. communities that applied for a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program grant. Grafton’s specific application asked for $26.2 million to help fund the creation of the 353 mile broadband middle mile network they’re calling Grafton County Broadband Now.
Costly Challenge from National Incumbent Providers
Charter Communications filed costly challenges with the NTIA challenging the application, falsely claiming that the county’s proposal was “duplicative” and Charter already provided broadband to the region. Most of the claims were based on older, unreliable data provided to the FCC by Charter dramatically overstating broadband availability.
Grafton County surveys actually indicate the majority of county residents still can’t get access to the FCC’s base definition for broadband, 25 Megabits (Mbps) per second downstream, 3 Megabits per second upstream. Availability data across the county will likely look even worse should the FCC pass a new proposal to boost the definition of broadband to 100 Mbps.