Tuesday, December 13, 2022
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Data & Mapping
In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, 110 organizations representing broadband, housing, education, healthcare, libraries, and state and local governments called for urgent action to ensure unserved households in multifamily residential housing (MDUs) and community anchor institutions (CAIs) are correctly designated in the recently released FCC National Broadband Map. The groups raised serious concerns about the accuracy of the current FCC National Broadband Map and the subsequent challenge process. Together, they are urging the FCC to pause the current challenge process and develop a new one for MDUs and CAIs to accurately identify their various connectivity status.
The Utah Broadband Center and Access Act—enacted July 1, 2021—created the state's broadband office to 1) ensure that publicly funded broadband projects continue to be publicly accessible and provide a public benefit, 2) develop the statewide digital connectivity plan, and 3) administer the Broadband Access Grant Program. The Utah Broadband Center was also charged with working with the Utah Geospatial Resource Center to create a database and interactive map displaying statewide economic development data which includes voluntarily submitted broadband availability, speeds, and other data. BroadbandNow ranks Utah 13th in the U.S. for internet coverage, speed, and availability, estimating that nearly 97 percent of residents there have access to 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload broadband. BroadbandNow estimates that nearly 95 percent of Utahns have access to 100 Mbps broadband and 86 percent have access to 1 Gigabit service. Just less than half have access to a fiber-based broadband network. But only 20 percent of residents are able to purchase broadband at a price of $60/month or less. The Utah Broadband Center estimates that approximately 61,600 households and businesses lack access to broadband.
Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) has officially signed West Virginia’s Line Extension Advancement and Development (LEAD) program grants for Comcast to begin construction activities to connect more than 2,100 unserved homes and businesses across the state. Comcast will begin to execute the buildout plan for two projects totaling more than $10 million, enabled in part by a $7.5 million state grant to provide more residents in Brooke, Cabell, Hancock, Morgan, Ohio, and Putnam counties access to Comcast’s smart, fast and reliable fiber network. This expansion will add almost 200 additional route miles of fiber to connect unserved residents to the full suite of Xfinity residential and Comcast Business services, including broadband Internet speeds of up to 1.2 gigabits per second (Gbps) for residences and up to 100 Gbps for businesses. Funding for the WVBIP’s LEAD program is provided through the West Virginia Legislature’s allocation of $100 million to create the West Virginia Broadband Development Fund. The fund includes $90 million in funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and $10 million in state general revenue funds. Funds are also derived through the ARPA Capital Projects Fund, which includes $136 million for broadband development in West Virginia. The West Virginia Department of Economic Development’s Office of Broadband will administer program funds.
A Montana state commission advanced grant recommendations for a massive, $309 million rural broadband connectivity push, moving a previously delayed grantmaking process forward despite concerns voiced by Montana-based internet companies about the amount — approximately $110 million — slated for Charter Communications. The money fueling the program comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The broadband commission, which includes Gianforte administration officials as well as Republican and Democratic legislators, capped the amount it recommends allocating to Charter projects at approximately 35% of the total broadband program. That cap, however, wasn’t enough to quiet objections raised by smaller, Montana-based telecommunications companies that want more of the money to expand their own networks. Several have argued this year that the scoring system the commission developed to rank grant applications gave Connecticut-based Charter an unfair edge in places where it and local internet service providers proposed competing projects. One small telecom company owner, Robert Bialecki of Great Falls-area provider KDS Fiber, said that awarding public money to Charter would jeopardize his business by providing a public subsidy to a competitor that wasn’t previously focused on building in his coverage area.“ARPA was not designed to crush locally owned, small businesses in our communities,” Bialecki wrote.
For the last decade in Western Massachusetts, closing the digital divide meant getting fiber, cable, or wireless service to every address. With nearly all “last mile” connections complete, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s administration has shifted, in its final months, to efforts to help Massachusetts households overcome other obstacles to access. Michael Kennealy, Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, said a new Digital Equity Planning Program within the Massachusetts Broadband Institute will help cities and towns contend with how gaps in actual internet access affect people in their communities. The barrier could be cost, digital literacy and basic tech skills, language or not having the right devices.
Losing email service reminded me of businesses' reliance on technology and web platforms that underlie our businesses. The number one issue I hear from businesses is how devastating it is to lose a broadband connection. A lot of businesses go dead when losing broadband. I don’t think the average person realizes how reliant businesses are on broadband. People are not surprised when broadband shuts down consultants, engineers, or architects who rely on broadband to exchange data and files on projects. But the loss of broadband today can shut down businesses that the public doesn’t think of as broadband intensive. One of the goals that most communities have is to make sure that the business community has good broadband. That used to mean making sure that every business could buy broadband from at least one fast broadband provider. But I’ve talked to businesses of all sizes that would gladly buy broadband from two providers to protect against losing connectivity.
Comcast said that it successfully completed a trial of 10G and full duplex DOCSIS 4.0 technology delivering symmetrical multi-gigabit speeds on a live connection. The company said it will continue to trial the technology “over the next several months in preparation for offering 10G-enabled services to customers in the second half of 2023.” The cable industry uses the term “10G” for a range of technology advances aimed at enhancing internet connectivity. Full duplex DOCSIS 4.0 is one of those advances. A key goal of the 10G initiative is to provide symmetrical multi-gigabit services that have not been possible with traditional asymmetrical cable infrastructure. But while Cablelabs 10G standards call for 10 Gbps speeds downstream, developers have not yet found a way to deliver 10 Gbps speeds symmetrically and the cable industry still seems to be in the process of determining just what its maximum symmetrical speeds will be.
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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