Thursday, March 16, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
March 2023 Open Federal Communications Commission Meeting
FCC Targets Additional $7 Million Toward Affordable Connectivity Program Awareness
Development of a National Spectrum Strategy
USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter at The Media Institute
Go! U Northwestern
Stories From Abroad/International
The Federal Communications Commission is targeting approximately $7.445 million for two additional one-year, pilot outreach grant programs to raise awareness of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The two pilot programs will test a variety of methods to reach out to federal housing communities, and work with trusted third parties to assist consumers with completing and submitting an ACP application. The FCC selected 23 applicants for the Your Home, Your Internet Program and 9 applicants for the ACP Navigator Pilot Program. The Your Home, Your Internet Program is receiving $4.995 million in funding allocations to increase awareness and encourage participation in the ACP for households receiving federal housing assistance; and the ACP Navigator Pilot Program is receiving $2.449 million in funding allocations to provide a limited number of neutral, trusted third-party entities, such as schools and school districts, or other local, Tribal or state government entities, to assist consumers with completing and submitting an application for the Affordable Connectivity Program. The FCC will announce a complete list of pilot participants at a later date.
The Federal Communications Commission has directed the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to offer an additional funding opportunity of up to $10 million for the National Competitive Outreach Grant Program (NCOP) and the Tribal Competitive Outreach Grant Program (TCOP), which are components of the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program. This maximum of $10 million will come from a combination of: (a) unspent funding – funding previously allocated to the Outreach Grant Program but not awarded; and (b) unobligated funding – funding from the $100 million Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) outreach budget that we have not yet allocated to specific outreach efforts. The FCC directed the Bureau to issue a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to initiate the application process for this additional funding. This new funding opportunity for ACP outreach is intended to provide additional funding awards beyond the outreach grant awards announced by the FCC on March 10, 2023. For more information on the FCC's funding opportunity, visit here.
The Federal Communications Commission announced it is committing over $1.7 million in a new funding round through the Emergency Connectivity Program, which provides digital services for students in communities across the
country. This funding commitments support applications from all three filing windows benefiting approximately 5,000 students across the country, including students in California, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York. The Emergency Connectivity Program, which launched in 2021, has provided schools and libraries three different “application windows” for schools and libraries to apply for support. This announcement will support approximately 15 schools and 2 libraries. In this funding round, nearly $456,000 will support applications from the first two application windows, and $1.3 million for applications from the third application window.
The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) seeks comment on identifying airwaves for more intensive use and innovative new uses by both the private sector and federal agencies. NTIA seeks input on creating a spectrum pipeline for the next decade of frequencies that could be studied for new or additional uses. The agency’s goal is to identify at least 1,500 megahertz of spectrum to study for potential repurposing—perhaps the most ambitious study goal for NTIA to date—to meet future requirements for non-federal and federal users. Developing a strategy to increase access to this finite resource will help ensure continued US leadership in emerging technologies, advance connectivity and competition, create jobs and produce improvements to overall quality of life. The request for comment seeks input from a diverse range of stakeholders, including private industry academia, civil society and the public sector, on three proposed pillars of the National Spectrum Strategy.
- Developing a spectrum pipeline: What are the requirements such a pipeline needs to address? Which spectrum bands may be best suited for particular purposes, what access approaches should we consider, and what are the benefits and tradeoffs of each band or approach?
- Long-term spectrum planning: What should a long-term planning process entail? Who are the key stakeholders and what are the key inputs? How can the necessary collaboration best be implemented and executed?
- Expanding spectrum capacity through technology: What innovations on spectrum management models are coming? What spectrum management capabilities/tools would enable more robust and quicker implementation of spectrum sharing?
[Parties should file their comments no later than April 17, 2023. Docket number NTIA– 2023–0003]
T-Mobile US is buying Mint Mobile, the budget wireless provider part owned by actor Ryan Reynolds, for as much as $1.35 billion in an effort to bolster its prepaid phone business and reach more lower-income customers. T-Mobile is acquiring Mint’s closely held parent company, Ka’ena Corp., with a combination of 39% cash and 61% stock. The ultimate purchase price will be based on Mint reaching certain performance goals, both before and after the transaction closes. Reynolds, who owns an undisclosed but “significant” stake in Mint, will continue to make commercial appearances on the company’s behalf the actor has incentives to “continue for years.” Co-founder David Glickman and his partner Rizwan Kassim will join T-Mobile and manage the business. Mint offers some of the country’s lowest priced mobile plans, starting at $15 a month for 4 gigabytes of wireless data. The companies didn’t disclose Mint’s subscriber count. Its annual subscriber growth over the past four years has been 50%, and revenue growth has been 70% or more a year. The business has no stores, and sells phones and mobile plans entirely online. The service is provided by T-Mobile already as part of a wholesale network-sharing agreement.
The US wireless and mobile industry spent $11.9 billion building additional capacity and coverage into the nation’s wireless networks in 2022. This does not include spending on spectrum or maintenance and ongoing network operations. In total, network operating expenses for US wireless and mobile networks in 2022 topped $46 billion. Some key statistics:
- 142,100 cellular towers were in operation;
- 209,500 macrocell sites, not including small cells, were deployed;
- 678,700 macrocell sectors, not including small cells, were in operation;
- 452,200 outdoor small cell nodes were deployed; and
- 747,400 indoor small cell nodes were in use, including private Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) networks, distributed antenna systems (DAS), small cells and mmWave, and other licensed frequency bands.
This is a moment steeped in optimism about our connected future. There are many opportunities to join forces—across government, industry and community organizations. Collectively, we can get big things done. Our current project is to achieve connectivity for all. And, according to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act timeline, if we all hit of our marks, that goal could be achieved by the end of this decade. The question I’d like to pose is this: We have always seen universal connectivity as the end goal. But what if it were a new beginning? There is plenty of near-term work to be done now. We know that. But it’s not too early…nor is it overkill to begin important long-term policy planning. We must ensure when we achieve universal connectivity, we have in place the policy architecture that will guarantee that universal, affordable, equitable access is a permanent part of the daily fabric of everyone’s lives. This will always be a moving target that requires a sustained commitment from us all.
First, Congress can kick us off by immediately passing legislation to eliminate the counterproductive tax on broadband grants. Also, funds need to flow to qualified bidders with a proven track record of success. Fortunately, we see a new model emerging … and working … where local governments and private partners join forces…each playing to their respective strengths. Congress needs to continue the Affordable Connectivity Program. We also need to build on the IIJA’s commitment to digital inclusion initiatives.
Analysts have been in a tizzy warning that fiber players across the board are slowing their network deployments after a record build year in 2022. But is the fiber hangover actually real? Or are actual build figures still expected to increase? Fiber Broadband Association CEO Gary Bolton said that the reduced estimates are “not indicative” of the overall trend in fiber deployments. “I think these are just short-term adjustments, but everything we’re seeing is foot on the gas.” So, is the fiber hangover real? Only time will tell. But it’s also worth noting that any slowdown or recalibration in 2023 will likely be more than offset in the years that follow with the influx of $42.5 billion in funding from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program and billions in funding from other federal, state and local grant programs.
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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