Andrew Von Ah
Broadband Speed: FCC Should Improve Its Communication of Advanced Telecommunications Capability Assessments
The Federal Communications Commission is required by statute to assess the deployment of broadband across the US. Although not explicitly required to do so, FCC uses its discretion to set a minimum fixed broadband speed that it uses as a benchmark.
Affordable Broadband: FCC Could Improve Performance Goals and Measures, Consumer Outreach, and Fraud Risk Management
Access to broadband—high-speed internet—has become critical for everyday life. But its cost may keep some people from having access to it. The Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) offers eligible low-income households discounts on the cost of their broadband service and certain devices. FCC reimburses participating internet service providers for providing these discounts. To make it more affordable for low-income Americans, the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program offers monthly discounts on broadband service to eligible households.
Broadband Funding: Stronger Management of Performance and Fraud Risk Needed for Tribal and Public-Private Partnership Grants
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, established two new broadband grant programs—the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) and Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP), administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce. NTIA’s process generally aligned with recommended practices. However, NTIA’s current performance goals and measures will not tell the whole story of whether these programs succeed.
Telecommunications Workforce: Additional Workers Will Be Needed to Deploy Broadband, but Concerns Exist About Availability
Recent legislation included big increases in federal funding for the deployment of broadband, which is increasingly critical to daily life, but unavailable in some areas. Our analysis found that thousands more skilled workers will be needed to deploy broadband and 5G funded by recent federal programs. If this work is spread over 10 years, the funding would support about 23,000 additional workers at its peak. A shorter timespan could require even more of them. We found mixed evidence on whether there's a shortage of these workers.
Since 2019, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) ReConnect program has awarded millions of dollars in grants and loans to broadband providers for expanding service in rural areas. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) makes three recommendations to USDA on how to improve the ReConnect Program:
GAO Finds National Strategy and Coordination Framework is Needed to Increase Tribal Broadband Access
Broadband is critical to modern life. Despite federal efforts, broadband access on Tribal lands has traditionally lagged behind the rest of the country. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review federal efforts for improving broadband on Tribal lands.
Broadband internet is increasingly critical for work, school, shopping, and other parts of daily life. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the "digital divide" and the disadvantages for people who don't have access. In its efforts to expand broadband access, the federal government has subsidized investment in rural areas that haven't attracted private investment. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified over 100 federal programs—administered by 15 agencies—that could be used to expand access.
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is responsible for establishing a nationwide public-safety broadband network. In this report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified four key statutory requirements and contract responsibilities currently performed by FirstNet that Congress should address before FirstNet would sunset in 2027. For example, FirstNet oversees the network contract awarded to AT&T in 2017. The current statute does not identify another federal entity to assume oversight when FirstNet sunsets.
To help close the digital divide, federal programs provide funding to support broadband deployment in unserved areas. According to the Federal Communications Commission, these programs rely on data the FCC collects from broadband providers to identify which areas are and are not served to target their limited funds. This report describes the FCC's progress in developing a location fabric and the challenges stakeholders identified that the FCC faces in doing so.
This report examines (1) small business access to broadband and how federal broadband funding programs may serve small businesses, and (2) the extent to which the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband speed benchmark meets the needs of small businesses. Much of the literature GAO reviewed suggests that FCC’s current broadband minimum benchmark speeds—25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloading and 3 Mbps for uploading—are likely too slow to meet many small business speed needs. GAO is making one recommendation to FCC to solicit stakeholder input and analyze small business broadban