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As states and territories define high-cost thresholds for their Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) proposals, the industry finds itself divided on the best approach. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress established a preference for "priority broadband projects" that meet high performance standards, can scale with needs over time, and will enable the deployment of 5G. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has since determined that "end-to-end fiber optic facilities" are the platform most likely to satisfy those requirements. Subsequently, the NTIA directed each state and territory to set an “extremely high cost per location threshold” (EHCT), which defines the point at which a preference for fiber deployment is no longer cost-effective. In areas where fiber deployment would exceed the EHCT, they can opt for technologies that are typically more inexpensive to deploy, like fixed wireless. States won’t recommend an exact dollar amount for the thresholds in their BEAD proposals, said NTCA EVP Mike Romano. Essentially, they will propose a general “equation” to calculate specific thresholds location-by-location. Determining the appropriate funding threshold will depend on the size of the geographic areas that states aim to cover, said Romano. Setting smaller, manageable units could make it easier for them to set the threshold at a level that will “maximize getting fiber to as many people as possible while recognizing there will be places that you need to consider alternative technologies,” he said.
We, the undersigned advocates for responsible government, write to express our concern with the Biden Administration’s blatant disregard for Congressional intent in its attempts to impose price controls on broadband Internet access service. These attempts exhibit a pattern of behavior whereby Administration officials say one thing while doing the opposite. In the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Congress spoke its bipartisan will: there shall be no rate regulation of broadband. Indeed, the bill as signed by the president included an amendment expressly prohibiting rate regulation. It is alarming that despite the letter and spirit of the law, and multiple statements from Administration officials opposing rate regulation—including statements under oath—that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) continues to impose price-setting measures through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. The first sign of a disconnect between Congress’s written word and NTIA’s implementation of the law was the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) that the agency released in 2022. The NOFO required states to include a “middle class affordability plan,” even though Congress included no such requirement in the statute. While NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson has, on multiple occasions, stressed that states will have “flexibility” in implementing BEAD plans pursuant to the NOFO, in practice, that has not been the case. In Sept 2023 during a session on Virginia’s BEAD plan, Chandler Vaughn, Broadband Policy Analyst at Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, indicated that the state sought the flexibility not to rate regulate gigabit broadband plans. However, NTIA communicated that the state must do so. He said, “We were pointed back to the NOFO and politely told that that was the way we are to score affordability criteria … how close you are to a hundred dollars on that price point.” In other words, states are required to rate regulate—and NTIA will make sure they do so.
The Oklahoma Broadband Office, tasked with awarding millions of dollars in federal money to increase access to high-speed internet services, announced companies could apply for $374 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars, but applications totaled $5.1 billion in projects. “The overwhelming response to our request for submissions speaks to the tremendous need for high-speed internet access in rural Oklahoma,” said Office Executive Director Mike Sanders. “With almost $14 requested for every $1 available from this first grant program, the competition is strong, and that bodes well for ensuring the most efficient use of funds.” As many as 728,000 Oklahomans, many of whom live in rural areas, do not have access to affordable, high-speed internet.
All4Ed's new State Policy Center is focused on advancing educational equity (including digital equity) and providing vital support to state policymakers and advocates. Key features of the State Policy Center include:
- Model Legislation designed to address educational equity, providing a blueprint for impactful change.
- State-Focused Policy Resources: State policymakers and advocates will have access to a wealth of state-focused policy resources (e.g., policy briefs, case studies) to guide their efforts and inform their decision-making.
- Technical Assistance: All4Ed’s team will provide direct technical assistance in legislative drafting, tailoring our model legislation to the unique needs of a state.
There is an easy way to simplify the upcoming battle between the Federal Communications Commission and big internet service providers (ISPs) over Title II regulation and net neutrality. The public expects the government to regulate industries that are essential. That’s the reason we regulate electric companies and drinking water quality. It’s the reason we regulate meat and drug safety. Governments also eventually regulate companies or industries that gain monopoly power since monopolies inevitably engage in practices that harm the public or unfairly compete in the marketplace to drive out competition. Monopolies that deliver essential services should get the most regulatory scrutiny. Now that the FCC has formally started the process of placing some regulations on ISPs, we’re going to hear a lot of reasons from big ISPs why they don’t need to be regulated. Big ISPs will tell us how the prices they charge us are fair and are even getting less expensive over time. They will attack the regulators and say that attempts to regulate them are only for political reasons. They will deflect any conversation about regulation using red herrings to make the discussion about something else. Big ISPs will do everything possible to avoid having an open discussion about why big ISPs should be regulated. If explained in the simplest terms, almost everybody would agree that big ISPs should be regulated since they deliver essential services and have monopoly power.
Policymakers inundated with self-serving arguments for specific spectrum allocation need ways to evaluate which actually advance the public interest. By focusing on the goal of productive spectrum use, one can differentiate between reasoning that would enhance productivity and that which would only advance private interests.
USTelecom hosted its annual Broadband Investment Forum, in which internet service providers (ISPs) and policymakers came together to discuss the most poignant issues in the industry. One of the sessions featured Brightspeed CEO Tom Maguire and Ziply Fiber CEO Harold Zeitz, who shared their respective approaches to fiber deployment and how they view the broader competitive landscape. When Brightspeed began operations last fall, its initial goal was to try and hit as many households as possible, said Maguire. The operator has outlined plans to reach 1 million passings by the end of 2023 and 3 million within five years. As Brightspeed moves into its second year as the fifth largest incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) in the US, it’s shifting toward a “marketplace perspective,” where it can go into a particular market and see if it can grab a high penetration rate, which in turn can “help us deliver additional trends down the road.” Zeitz thinks Ziply can get fiber to about 85 percent of the ILEC footprint it acquired from Frontier in 2020. The company is building in a way to “not encumber a municipality too much at one time” by choosing “to build parts of towns across and then fill out.” Even though it’s “more economical” to finish work in a market in one go, Ziply found this approach also aligns with the time it takes to get projects approved.
Oct 24––41st Annual Everett C. Parker Lecture & Awards Breakfast (United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry)
Oct 24––The A.I. Divide: What is the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Digital Equity? (Michelson 20MM)
Oct 25––Tribal Broadband Opportunities and Challenges (Fiber Broadband Association)
Oct 26––Oregon Connections: Navigating the Funding Flood. (Oregon Connections)
Oct 29––The CyberShare Summit (NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association)
Oct 30––Alerting Security Roundtable (FCC)
Oct 31––The Future of Private Networks (New America)
Nov 2-3––Michigan Broadband Summit (Merit Network)
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), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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