Doug Dawson

More Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Controversy

Recently, the Minnesota Telephone Alliance and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to revoke the Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) status for LTD Broadband. ETC staus must awarded by a state regulatory authority or by the Federal Communications Commission to any carrier that wants to collect funding from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. The petition stems from LTD being the winner in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction in Minnesota to receive $311 million to bring broadband to 102,000 passing in the state.

Is Cable Broadband Equal to Fiber?

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said of a cable broadband comparison to fiber: "The idea that this technology [fiber] is transformative and superior is just dead wrong. It’s just another form of transmission.” There are mountains of facts that say that Rutledge is wrong. First, Charter is expanding its network around the country either through self-funding to reach areas just outside of the traditional cable territories, or by pursuing grants and subsidies, such as with the $1.2 billion that Charter claimed in the 2020 RDOF reverse auction.

Get Ready for the Challenge Process

There is one interesting aspect of the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grants that could impact any rural community that is hoping to find a broadband solution from the $42.5 billion BEAD grant process. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is allowing local governments to challenge the broadband maps that will be used to determine the areas that are eligible for the grants. This is something that communities should be getting ready for today.

The Busy Hour and Data Caps

As states are getting ready to create their broadband plans for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)’s $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grants, we’re starting to see some interesting arguments being made by incumbents to influence state broadband plans. One of the aspects of the BEAD plan that hasn’t been discussed much yet is that the NTIA is stressing affordability. For example, the NOFO states several times that states must develop a middle-class rate plan.

Future-Proofing Federal Broadband Grants

There has been a lot of discussion in the last few months about how wonderful it was for Congress to have increased the speed requirements for broadband grant eligibility to 100/20 Mbps in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grants. If we accept that 25/3 Mbps was a good definition for download speed in 2015 and that 100/20 Mbps is a good definition in 2022, then that is an acknowledgment that the demand for download broadband speed has grown at about 21 percent per year.

Another Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program Grant Complication

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)'s definition of reliable broadband service in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grant rules says that any grant cannot be used to overbuild a reliable broadband technology that meets or exceeds the 100/20 Mbps speed threshold of the grants.

The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Notice of Funding Opportunity – Financial Issues

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has established basic rules for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grants in the recent Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). One of the most important aspects of the rules that potential applicants need to understand relates to funding and financing. Note that the NOFO instructs the States what it expects to be included in each state’s broadband grant program for the BEAD funding. The first set of rules concerns the amount of grant funding.

A New Definition of Broadband Technology

The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.2 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grants establishes new rules for the grants that might have a wider implication for broadband elsewhere. One of the most interesting aspects of the NOFO was the definition of a new term – Reliable Broadband Service.

An Odd Appeal to Rural America

USTelecom recently sent a letter to practically every politician who might have a hand in deciding how broadband grants are awarded – the White House and key Cabinet officials, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, members of Congress, Governors, Mayors, other local officials, Tribal leaders, and state broadband offices.

Let the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Grant Process Begin!

The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.2 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grants has been released by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Here are some issues I’ll be exploring in more detail: