Christopher Ali

Counties: The Missing Pieces in the Broadband Puzzle

At least in the state of Virginia, counties are rural, yet they have been left out of the design of broadband deployment and the conversation around rural broadband. Nevertheless, they are a crucial part of the local broadband story, and their support can go a long way in bridging the digital divide. In this article, we offer preliminary analysis of a question about broadband deployment.

Everything you wanted to know about broadband (but were afraid to ask)

“Broadband” is short-hand for an “always-on,” high-speed internet connection provided by a company or other entity known as an “internet service provider” (ISP). We say “always-on” to differentiate contemporary internet connections from the dial-up era of the 1990s, when a user had to dial a telephone number through their computer to connect. Today, the internet comes to us uninterrupted and we cannot get “booted off” if someone lifts up a phone receiver. We say “high-speed” connection because not all internet connections are technically broadband (see below for more on this point).

An Office of Rural Broadband: We’ve Heard This Before

On Feb 12, 2019 Sen Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced The Office of Rural Broadband Act in the Senate (S 454), which would establish an Office of Rural Broadband in the Federal Communications Commission. Sen Cramer’s Office of Rural Broadband Act is the latest effort to coordinate rural broadband planning and policy. As I recently wrote for the New York Times, this Office of Rural Broadband is best placed inside the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the US Dept of Agriculture, rather than the Federal Communications Commission, as S.454 proposes.

How the Infrastructure Bill Can Make Broadband Accessible to More Americans

President Joe Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure bill promises the largest public investment in telecommunications in the country’s history. Of the $65 billion allocated for high-speed internet—broadband—$42.45 billion is earmarked specifically for deployment projects through state grants.

Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity

An analysis of the failure of US broadband policy to solve the rural–urban digital divide, with a proposal for a new national rural broadband plan. As much of daily life migrates online, broadband—high-speed internet connectivity—has become a necessity. The widespread lack of broadband in rural America has created a stark urban–rural digital divide. In Farm Fresh Broadband, Christopher Ali analyzes the promise and the failure of national rural broadband policy in the United States and proposes a new national broadband plan.

Cooperatives: The Unsung Heroes of Broadband

I believe deeply in the importance of connectivity and the role that counties and cooperatives play in that endeavor. I was asked to talk about a few things today: the importance of broadband in a time of COVID; the important role that cooperatives play in broadband deployment; and the different technologies that deliver broadband to our homes, offices, and schools. Let’s start with the importance of broadband.

Affordable broadband is finally within reach

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission is trying to figure out how to operationalize the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, and early in Jan 2021 released a Notice of Inquiry to ask for public comments. While we applaud the Benefit Program, the FCC must ensure the eligibility and enrollment requirements are streamlined and build a path to make the benefit permanent through Lifeline. The FCC must not only clarify but take the lead on three key points: eligibility, responsibility, sustainability.

The Politics of Good Enough

Federal Communications Commission policies geared towards improving rural broadband deployment have failed in meaning, money, and mapping.

COVID-19 has underscored the need for fast, reliable internet access. Here's how subpar service hurts communities.

As you’re likely doing more of your work these days from home, you’re aware how valuable your internet connection is as more aspects of the real estate business are conducted online. But for millions of Americans, high-speed broadband access remains out of reach either because the infrastructure is unavailable or because they can’t afford service. For millions more, a state of underconnection means their home internet subscription cannot handle current demand, including routine uses such as watching Netflix movies, doing homework, and videoconferencing.

Closing the digital divide requires a coalition on reform of the Universal Service Fund

COVID-19 has exacerbated the digital “haves” and “have nots” through remote work, learning, and telehealth, yet our government’s main agency to support greater access and adoption is inadequately funded and functioned to meet this moment. AT&T recently published a blogpost lamenting the rise in contributions to the Universal Service Fund (USF) and arguing for funding reform.