Wednesday, April 13, 2022
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The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will invest billions of dollars in rural communities across the country. Supporting Americans living in rural areas remains a top priority for the Biden Administration, and the law delivers on the President’s promises to work toward delivering affordable, high-speed internet, safe roads and bridges, modern wastewater systems, clean drinking water, reliable and affordable electricity, and good-paying jobs in every rural community. In an effort to deliver on these promises, the Biden Administration is committed to improving transparency into the availability of federal infrastructure resources to support rural communities’ ability to access these critical funds. This playbook is intended to help rural communities understand the available funding for infrastructure provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other sources – offering information on the “what, where, and how” to apply for federal infrastructure dollars. Specifically, this playbook:
- Identifies programs and sources of funds set aside for rural communities under the law.
- Provides an overview of key flexibilities and other benefits available to rural communities under the law
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) predicted that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help get internet into every home in America within the next four to five years. The bill itself does not provide a concrete timeline as to when this goal would be achieved, but various government officials, including Rep Clyburn, have made promises to the American people that it could come sooner than some may expect. “In five years, I think this going to be a successful venture,” said Rep Clyburn. In addition, for this to work, he said he believes that including the private sector is what will really “allow us to build internet in every home, every business, within four to five years.”
[The remarks were delivered at the Benton Institute's 40th Anniversary Celebration]
Domestic content preference laws, which require that certain goods purchased with federal funds be manufactured primarily in the United States, have received increased attention from both Congress and the executive branch in recent years. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made changes to “Buy America” requirements for federally funded infrastructure projects. Buy America requirements traditionally extend to publicworks transportation and water-related infrastructure. The IIJA expands Buy America coverage to other infrastructure projects funded by federal grants, including transmission facilities; structures and equipment of electric utilities; broadband infrastructure; and real property and buildings. Oversight of expanded Buy America requirements mandated in the IIJA is likely to prove complicated due to other provisions in the law. The IIJA increases the amount of federal infrastructure funding provided directly to local entities, such as counties or municipal bus systems, rather than passing through state governments or metropolitan planning organizations. This may also extend to nontransportation infrastructure projects, such as tribal broadband deployments, where eligible entities include tribal governments, tribal colleges or universities, or native corporations not previously engaged in overseeing Buy America requirements.
For years the industry used the word redundancy when talking about how we protected our networks. The primary aspects of redundancy are having multiple fiber routes in place so that areas don’t become isolated if a fiber is cut or having enough spare electronics to quickly recover from problems. But in recent years, we’ve started to talk about resiliency, which encompasses redundancy but means a whole lot more. Resiliency means taking proactive steps to prepare against reasonably expected problems of all sorts. There are many examples of how network owners are thinking in terms of resiliency. For example, we’ve recently started seeing prolonged power outages or brownouts in Texas, parts of California, and elsewhere. We’ve seen fiber network owners deal with this problem in several ways. One is to design networks with fewer powered locations. Another way to increase resiliency is the increased use of solar power. I’ve also been having a lot more discussions with clients in recent years about burying networks. Most network builders have elected the lowest-cost option when building a network, and this has often meant putting fiber on poles. But when considering the total life cycle cost of operating the network, it’s becoming clear that in many cases fiber is a lower-cost option. Another aspect of resiliency that is becoming more important is to have a mutual aid plan – to be part of a group that will respond when there is a network disaster. This means providing aid to others when there are problems, but having a swarm of technicians to help fix problems in your own network can be a lifesaver.
[Doug Dawson is President of CCG Consulting.]
Summit County, Ohio, is planning to spend $75 million on a fiber internet project that will include building a 125-mile fiber optic ring to connect public safety entities in all 31 county communities and help expand internet access for residents and businesses. There are also plans in the works to work with private internet service providers, who could spend up to $300 million on the project, making the total figure for a potential public-private project nearly $400 million. The project, called the Summit County Public Safety Fiber and Communications Network, is one of the county’s largest capital projects ever and is being funded with a combination of county money and part of the $105.1 million it received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Costs include:
- $35 million in ARPA money for the construction of the 125-mile fiber optic ring, which will be owned by Summit County and operated by the city of Fairlawn. The ring will connect all 31 communities and support the county’s emergency radio system, consolidated dispatch center and virtual court platforms. But the network will also provide additional capacity to provide internet service to all communities in the county.
- $20 million in county funds for the design and construction of a data center in Fairlawn to service the network.
- $20 million in ARPA money for community broadband investments to support broadband delivery in underserved areas of the county to enhance public education, health and criminal justice.
Gage County, Nebraska, has selected a contractor to improve high-speed broadband access in the county. The county would make use of $4.2 million in American Rescue plan Act funding toward an estimated $11 million to $12 million project. County Supervisor Emily Haxby noted that the project will complement a federally supported project to provide a licensed fixed wireless service for the southeast part of the county, where plowing fiberoptic was not feasible. County supervisors also approved a contract with Universal Broadband Consulting to negotiate an agreement with Nextlink….and approved a memorandum of understanding with Nebraska Public Power District, to share costs of a study of broadband infrastructure development. NPPD would pick up half the cost of the estimated $20,000 study. Norris Public Power District and five counties would split the remaining costs.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel convened the first principals-level meeting of the recently relaunched Cybersecurity Forum for Independent and Executive Branch Regulators. The Forum consists of regulatory agencies with oversight across all sectors of the US economy. The purpose of the group is to increase the overall effectiveness of the nation’s cybersecurity efforts by identifying and exploring opportunities to align, leverage, and de-conflict cross-sector approaches to cybersecurity protection. Officials representing 30 regulatory and advisory agencies participated in this first meeting. The meeting included briefings from senior leaders, updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and recent cybersecurity legislation, and discussion of goals and processes. In particular, the group discussed achieving greater consistency and convergence in the reporting of cyber incidents and advancing the goals of the President’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.
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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