Thursday, October 20, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
Today's Events: Disinformation and Privacy
Commerce Contract with CostQuest
You May Be Paying 400 Times As Much As Your Neighbor for Internet Service
Workforce Planning Guide: Guidance for BEAD Program Eligible Entities
The Department of Commerce/Enterprise Services intends to negotiate a sole source, firm fixed price contract with CostQuest Associates for Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric, Technology Availability Likelihood (TAL), and Network Cost Model data to meet the congressional mandate at the estimated price of $49.9 Million. This procurement will provide data to support operational needs for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD), Digital Equity (DE), the Access Broadband Act, as well as the Internet for All initiative. Several use cases that National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA), Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) plans to use the data for include:
- Identification and use of un and under Served Broadband Serviceable locations as identified by the Federal Communications Commission for the use in the BEAD program
- Defining high-cost areas to support OICG efforts to develop an allocation model for its BEAD program and to support Eligible Entities use in their grant programs
- Defining extremely high-cost areas to support Eligible Entity grant programs
- Data consistency with the dataset used by the FCC in the Broadband Data Collection
- Supporting OICG efforts to review and assess eligible entities’ build out proposals
- Enabling Eligible Entities to define project areas based on underserved and unserved locations and cost to deploy broadband
- Reporting and tracking of projects during deployment
- Supporting interagency Federal and state coordination to avoid duplication/overbuild of broadband deployment and funding
- Evaluating the impact of broadband deployment (e.g., change in broadband availability)
Hexvarium is hoping to make it easier for service providers to understand the long-term costs and revenue associated with prospective broadband builds using a new software mapping tool. CEO Gerry Lawlor said that the tool will provide detailed data insights that have hitherto been lacking in the industry, and, ultimately help close the broadband gap. The company’s HexMAPP software breaks the entire US down into hexagonal blocks. These are color-coded based on build desirability, which is calculated by combining a range of inputs gleaned from the US Census, Federal Communications Commission, and proprietary data. By clicking on a block, service providers can get a detailed view of not only the mix of people and businesses in an area but also income levels, what types of products and price points a location might require, forecast demand over time, and the competitive landscape. Hexvarium has also already mocked up a network design to push fiber to every home in the country. That means it can cross reference this design – which includes information about the expected mix of aerial versus buried construction, the total number of route miles needed, take rates, etc. – with the aforementioned data to yield a detailed cost/benefit analysis for each hex block. The company’s software is also built to reflect the relationship between blocks. Hexvarium believes the ability to provide better data about the 40 to 50 million homes in the US that are riskier to cover will help convince service providers to take the leap into less desirable areas and ultimately close the broadband gap.
Dollars to Megabits, You May Be Paying 400 Times As Much As Your Neighbor for Internet Service
AT&T, Verizon, EarthLink, and CenturyLink disproportionately offered the worst internet deals to neighborhoods that were formerly redlined, whose residents are lower income and have a higher concentration of people of color than other parts of the city. The findings are based on an examination of actual internet offers to more than 800,000 addresses in 38 cities across the country. People in disadvantaged neighborhoods would be offered plans as high as $100 per megabit per second, while those in more affluent areas that have more White residents and had the best historical redlining scores were offered plans for less than $1 per Mbps. The ultimate effect of these practices went beyond fairness: Those in disadvantaged neighborhoods were offered speeds so slow that they were denied the ability to participate in remote learning, jobs, and even family connection and recreation that are ubiquitous to modern life. A recent Pew survey, for example, showed 90 percent of respondents saying the internet has been “essential or important for them personally during the coronavirus outbreak.”
The Federal Communications Commission is committing nearly $78 million in funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Program (ECP), which provides digital services for students in communities across the country. The funding commitments support applications from the first and third application windows, benefiting approximately 175,000 students across the country, including students in Delaware, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Texas. To date, the FCC has committed nearly $6.1 billion to schools and libraries across the country as part of the Emergency Connectivity Program.
AT&T Chief Executive Officer John Stankey considers the expansion of AT&T’s fiber network part of his strategy to refocus the company around offering greater telecommunications connectivity now that it’s left behind its dream of being a media powerhouse. Stankey’s sights are now set on a pool of almost $100 billion in federal funds allocated for broadband deployment. Although Indiana is part of AT&T’s 21-state telecommunications service region, the company will soon announce a widening expansion into markets outside its traditional territory. AT&T’s top-three criteria for extending fiber to a market are to address the underserved, make a profit, and be the first provider of fiber to the home in the area. AT&T says it has no interest in duplicating other companies’ fiber networks or running a community network owned by a municipality. Ultimately, Stankey emphasizes that AT&T's focus will be last-mile connections as such connections are the "most sustainable."
Local broadband advocates and politicians tell me that folks with little or no broadband are hounding them about when they are going to see a broadband solution. A large part of the frustration is that folks have heard that broadband is coming to rural America, but they aren’t seeing any local progress or improvement. A big part of the reason for this frustration is that folks aren’t being given realistic timeframes for when they might see a solution. Politicians all gladly told the public that they had voted to solve rural broadband when the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) legislation was enacted in November 2021. But almost nobody told folks the actual timelines that go along with the broadband funding. Such grant timelines see broadband installations and improvements between 2024 and 2028. However, broadband providers can build earlier than that. Broadband providers realize that the longer they delay construction, the higher the likely cost of the construction. But some grants have built-in delays, such as having to complete an environmental study before any grant funds will be released. The big problem is that people without good broadband want a solution now, not years from now. Ultimately, folks are further frustrated when they hear that local governments are creating partnerships or giving grants to broadband providers from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding – but again, with no immediate action or disclosures of the timeline.
A guide for states and territories to use when planning high-speed Internet deployment projects. The high-speed Internet deployment and digital equity projects funded through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program will create over 150,000 of good-paying jobs. This guide lays out strategies and examples for meeting funding requirements and ensuring a skilled, competitive, and diverse workforce.
- Components of a Workforce Plan: Highlights the requirements and guidance related to workforce development and fair labor standards in the BEAD NOFO.
- Developing a Workforce Plan: Provides suggested planning steps and pacing for completing grant submissions and key integration points with the Digital Equity Act programs.
- Strategies and Examples: Offers a range of approaches to meet the workforce needs and offers examples of existing programs at the Federal, state, or local level.
- Additional Resources: Provides additional resources, including a list of Federal and state agencies that can help answer questions, guiding questions and resources that help conduct landscape analysis, and a checklist of best practices that eligible entities can use when evaluating different workforce programs.
In addition to the Workforce Planning Guide, NTIA is providing technical assistance to states and grantees on workforce requirements through public, open webinars and one-on-one meetings.
As the battle over the use of the 12.2 GHz to 12.7 GHz rages, the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition once again said that the Federal Communication Commission should change its rules and allow terrestrial 5G transmission in this frequency band. Current rules allow for downlink only use for satellite TV. The push for 12 GHz began in October 2020 with a letter to then-FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Since that time, incumbents AT&T and SpaceX have opposed the shared spectrum use on grounds that terrestrial 5G would interfere with their services, disrupting transmissions to customers. Another incumbent, DISH, is part of the coalition because it’s building a 5G network and already has licenses in the band for its satellite TV services. Keep in mind that a rule change is still needed for SpaceX to use the 12 GHz band for its 12,000 Starlink for internet access. Current rules allow for downlink transmission only, so Starlink uses frequencies outside 12.2 GHz to 12.7 GHz for its internet services. The coalition argues that Starlink has 1500 MHz of spectrum available for its use that’s outside of the 500 MHz in question and 5G services should have permission to use it.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the cause of mysterious GPS interference that, over the past few days, has closed one runway at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and prompted some aircraft in the region to be rerouted to areas where signals were working properly. The interference first came to light on October 17 when the FAA issued an advisory warning flight personnel and air traffic controllers of GPS interference over a 40-mile swath of airspace near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Fine-grained tracking of the interference suggested that military operations—the most common source of unintentional interference—weren’t playing a role.
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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