Content tagged with "mapping"

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Schoharie County, NY Eyes New Fiber Network On Back Of $30 Million Grant

Schoharie County, New York officials have applied for a $30 million New York State ConnectALL grant with the hopes of eventually building a $33 million, county-wide fiber network.

The shape and scope of the network has yet to be determined, but the county hopes to build a network that brings affordable access to the rural, agriculture-heavy county.

“Schoharie County applied for the grant under the NYS MIP program on April 19th, in an attempt to bring high speed broadband access to every premise in the county,” Deputy County Administrator Jim Halios told ILSR.

Notoriously over-optimistic FCC data currently states that Schoharie County enjoys 92 percent broadband coverage county-wide. In reality, broadband access in the county is largely dominated by a monopoly enjoyed by Charter Spectrum, which was nearly kicked out of the state entirely in 2019 for misleading regulators and failing to evenly deploy access.

Tribes Likely Have to Challenge RDOF And Other “Enforceable Commitments” on State BEAD Maps

As debate continues about the “collision course” between the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) programs, it is worth highlighting the unique leverage Tribal nations have to resolve these concerns on Tribal lands as well as the challenges they may face in navigating the process.

Existing state and federal grant/loan programs are considered “enforceable commitments” under BEAD rules, making locations funded through those programs, including RDOF, ineligible for BEAD grants (unless those awards are declared to be in default). This rule prevents “duplication” of federal or state funding for broadband infrastructure build-outs.

The debate has emerged because some communities are concerned that RDOF-funded building has not yet begun and, in some cases, may never be built-out. In the meantime those locations remain ineligible for BEAD because of these enforceable commitments.

However, the rules about enforceable commitments and duplication are different on Tribal lands. When issuing its BEAD guidance, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) determined that federal and state grant funding for buildout on Tribal lands – like RDOF – that do not carry Tribal Government Resolutions of consent are not considered to be enforceable commitments.

Tribal RDOF awards

Without formal Tribal consent in the form of a legally binding agreement, which includes a Tribal Government Resolution, funding programs like RDOF should have no bearing on the BEAD eligibility of locations on Tribal lands. As long as they are not currently receiving service from a provider, these locations should remain BEAD-eligible.

Trojan Horse To Cripple Muni Broadband in New York Slipped Into State Assembly Budget Proposal

Language added to a New York State budget bill is threatening to undermine a municipal broadband grant program established by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office earlier this year.

Known as the Municipal Infrastructure Program, it was designed to provide grant funding for municipalities in the state eager to build publicly-owned, locally controlled broadband infrastructure as a way to ensure ubiquitous, affordable access to high-quality Internet after decades of frustration with expensive, spotty and uneven service from the regional monopolies.

Currently, New York state lawmakers are in the midst of budget proposal season in which the Governor’s office and both legislative chambers (the state Senate and Assembly) have until April 1 to reconcile and complete a final budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Buried near the bottom of the Assembly budget proposal (A8805B) is a Trojan horse legislative sources say is being pushed by lobbyists representing Charter Spectrum, the regional cable monopoly and 2nd largest cable company in the U.S. that was nearly kicked out of New York by state officials in 2018 for atrocious service.

Data Challenges for Equitable Broadband Access In Fresno, CA and Beyond - Episode 592 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

In this podcast episode, Christopher engages in a conversation with Philip Neufeld, the Executive Officer for Information Technology at the Fresno Unified School District. They delve into the crucial role of data in addressing broadband connectivity challenges in low-income neighborhoods, stressing the need for accurate and comprehensive data to guide policy decisions and investment strategies.

Philip's proactive data collection efforts in Fresno, particularly through speed tests on school devices, offer valuable insights into connectivity issues. He emphasizes the importance of using this data to advocate for solutions that bridge the digital divide.

The episode concludes by exploring the limitations of current mapping methods and the urgent need for more accurate data to drive effective and targeted solutions. Highlighting a collaborative approach, they underscore the significance of public-private partnerships and community coalitions in advocating for equitable broadband access in low-income neighborhoods.

This show is 44 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show: please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or 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.

‘Scrappy’ Island Munis Lead Charge For Affordable Broadband In Maine

Peppered by winding country roads and remote islands, Maine exemplifies the challenges in even deployment of affordable broadband. But thanks to tenacious island communities and forward-thinking state leadership, a growing roster of community-owned broadband networks are leading the charge toward affordable access in the Pine Tree State.

Peggy Schaffer, former executive director of the state of Maine's broadband mapping and expansion effort, ConnectMaine, has played a starring role in shoring up Maine’s broadband mapping data after years of federal dysfunction.

Schaffer’s well versed in the broad array of challenges faced by remote Maine communities, and says she’s long been impressed by the “scrappy” nature of Maine’s community-owned island deployments, which have faced down and overcome no limit of onerous challenges in an  ongoing quest to finally bridge the state’s long standing digital divide.

Maine is currently ranked 49th in the U.S. in terms of resident access to gigabit-capable broadband service. Like so much of the country, the state is heavily dominated by regional monopolies that failed to uniformly deliver affordable, next-generation broadband, despite decades of federal subsidies, regulatory favors, and tax breaks.

Now local Maine communities are taking matters into their own hands, beginning with long-neglected island residents no stranger to unique logistical challenges.

Islesboro Maine

‘It’s A Story Of Perseverance’

LA Leads Way In Push To Leverage FCC’s New Digital Discrimination Rules For Local Action

In the wake of the new rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prevent digital discrimination, digital equity advocates from California to Cleveland are leveraging the new federal rules to spur local action.

In Los Angeles, city leaders have passed an ordinance to combat what advocates say are discriminatory investment and business practices that leave historically marginalized communities without access to affordable high-quality Internet. Similar efforts to mobilize communities and local officials are underway in Oakland and Cleveland.

In November 2023, the FCC codified rules to prevent digital discrimination, outlining a complaint process whereby members of the public can offer evidence of digital discrimination being committed by Internet service providers (ISPs). Though the FCC order does not outline local policy solutions, nor does it empower localities to carry out enforcement of the federal rules, it has the potential to open up conversations between local advocates and elected officials about new ordinances, stronger enforcement of existing ones, or public investment to facilitate competition and the building of better broadband networks.

Los Angeles First City in Nation To Officially Define Digital Discrimination At Local Level

The local organizing work behind the proposed ordinance in LA dates back to 2022 when digital equity advocates began to document inequitable broadband access across the county.

Louisiana and Virginia Maps Give Window Into First BEAD State Challenge Processes

In the quest to unlock billions of dollars in broadband infrastructure money, Louisiana and Virginia have outpaced all other states in the speed with which they are dispatching the BEAD program’s requirements. Louisiana was the first to complete the challenge process and is still the only state to have received approval for Volume 2 of its initial proposal. Virginia, meanwhile, has completed their challenge process but now appears locked in a battle with the NTIA over the low-cost plan parameters they intend to set. 

Information is trickling out about the challenge process in both states. We know that Louisiana received a reported 110,00 challenges and Virginia even more, counting 130,000 before the challenge window had even closed. It will be interesting to learn about challengers’ experience with the process, particularly for those nonprofits and local governments which have less experience with broadband mapping and data reporting. In the meantime, the states’ mandatory challenge process disclosures can give us some preliminary insight into how the challenge process is being used.

Two Maps Show Current Status of Challenge Process

NTIA guidance stipulated some transparency requirements for the post-challenge process that we are now beginning to see play out. Louisiana's and Virginia’s maps now show data on the challenges made during the process - who challenged the designation, what type of challenge they made, and, if available, the results of the adjudication process. (NTIA guidance requires “a summary of the challenge” and “a summary of the rebuttal,” which suggests slightly more detail than the maps provide.)

Old Data Woes Could Hinder Round Two of Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) is in the midst of accepting applications for a second round of funding, with nearly $1 billion in grants available. A significant program with important limitations, TBCP has made some changes in round two – including one that could mean the resurgence of old barriers for Tribes.

TBCP launched in 2021 with a total $3 billion in allocations, an unprecedented federal investment in Tribal broadband. The TBCP also requires no minimum match from Tribal governments, easing a long-time barrier to grant participation.

Interest in the program’s first round of funding was pronounced. After more than 300 applications requesting nearly $6 billion, NTIA selected 226 projects for award, to the tune of $1.9 billion. At least 70 of these were “equitable distribution” awards – a system that guaranteed any of the 574 federally recognized tribes with a satisfactory application up to $500,000. All together, these grants expect to reach more than 170,000 Tribal households.

California’s Broadband Plan Has Huge Potential, But Red Flags Abound

In 2021, California passed Senate Bill 156, an ambitious plan allocating $6 billion to shore up affordable broadband access throughout the state.

Among the most notable of the bill’s proposals was a plan to spend $3.25 billion on an open-access statewide broadband middle-mile network backers say could transform competition in the state.

An additional $2 billion has also been earmarked for last mile deployment. Both components will be heavily funded by Coronavirus relief funds and federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) subsidies as well as California State Government grants – with all projects to be finished by December 2026 as per federal funding rules.

But while California’s proposal has incredible potential, activists and digital equity advocates remain concerned that the historic opportunity could be squandered due to poor broadband mapping, a notable lack of transparency, and the kind of political dysfunction that has long plagued the Golden State.

Massive Scale, Big Money, Endless Moving Parts

Still, California’s prioritization of open access fiber networks could prove transformative.

Data routinely indicates that open access fiber networks lower market entry costs, boost overall competition, and result in better, cheaper, faster Internet access. Unsurprisingly, such networks are often opposed by entrenched regional monopolies that have grown fat and comfortable on the back of muted competition.

The Burden of Proof - Episode 574 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

Mapping is hard. You know it, and so do we. Despite that reality, at least from the outside, it looks like the FCC has spent the entirety of this decade avoiding the hard decisions necessary to make sure precious federal dollars are wisely used and the data that drives our policy is easily accessible and faithful to reality. This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Tom Reid, President and founder Reid Consulting Group. Tom shares what his firm has been doing to help local governments get around this persistent problem, and how with some thoughtful design and sophisticated data work we can use what is out there to build a pretty clear picture of the places we need to close the infrastructure gap. 

Tom and Christopher end the show by talking a little about how the burden of proof in proving poor, unreliable, or no service is being extended to local governments, households, and nonprofits in the upcoming challenge process for states as the latter prepares for the next stage of the BEAD process.

This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below.

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.