Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
Digital inequities allow the digital divide to thrive in the most under-resourced communities. Proof of inequity rarely surfaces in isolation and has a compound effect by multiplying the impact of disadvantage. This research was designed to explore three primary questions. First, is there a predominant race and socioeconomic class of the populations most frequently impacted by the digital divide? Second, does the digital divide impose a collective cost that is shared with digitally disadvantaged and connected households? Third, should investing in digital equity be a national priority? The analysis documents why the answer to all three of those questions is a resounding yes. Even though the recommendations in this report primarily focus on the effect of public policy decisions or inaction coupled with marketplace dynamics, there is an implicit call for both public and private entities to examine how their roles – including strategic silence – have contributed to digital inequality. Public policy changes are only ceremonial without confronting the underbelly of how technology and telecommunications regulations are made. Moreover, permanently eliminating digital divides necessitates deliberate reflection on whose voices and stories actually inform remedies, which can differ from those that policy proposals are purported to help.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)'s definition of reliable broadband service in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grant rules says that any grant cannot be used to overbuild a reliable broadband technology that meets or exceeds the 100/20 Mbps speed threshold of the grants. The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) said that the grants can’t be used where speeds are adequate for the following technologies: (i) fiber-optic technology; (ii) Cable Modem/ Hybrid fiber-coaxial technology; (iii) digital subscriber line (DSL) technology; or (iv) terrestrial fixed wireless technology utilizing entirely licensed spectrum or using a hybrid of licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The policy behind this makes sense – the NTIA doesn’t think that valuable federal grant dollars should be used where adequate broadband technology is already in use. But this particular definition is going to cause some complications the NTIA might not have considered. Internet service providers interested in BEAD awards are now going to have to wait until the new broadband maps come out to know what this might do to their grant plans. I’m thinking that, at least in some cases, this will be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back and convinces an ISPs to walk away and not even try.
[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
Governor Phil Scott (R-VT) and Rep Peter Welch (D-VT) joined the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) and community leaders to announce over $16 million in broadband construction grants that will bring fiber broadband speeds to residents of Bolton and several towns in the Northeast Kingdom (VT). The first grant approved by the VCBB was awarded to the Communications Union District serving the NEK. The Board reviewed and unanimously voted to approve NEK Broadband's construction grant request of $15,899,089, making it the first Communications Union District (CUD) in Vermont awarded through this program. The funding will allow NEK Broadband to construct 215 miles of network, connecting 1,479 households along the way. The second grant was award to Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) to complete its fiber-to-the-home project for the remaining customers in the area it serves in the town of Bolton. The project will build to the remaining 500 locations still on copper, of which 271 are currently underserved. The VCBB unanimously approved a grant to WCVT for $421,000. The town of Bolton is contributing $200,000, with WCVT covering the remaining $1,297,000 of the project. The two projects funded must be completed within the next twenty-four months. VCBB expects to consider more applications during the month of June. The Governor and the Vermont General Assembly have appropriated $245 million in broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan.
Hundreds of thousands of Michigan households in rural and urban communities don’t have access to high-speed internet. According to federal data, the average percentage of households in the state’s 83 counties without high-speed internet access is 17.5 percent. Around 13.5 percent of those households don’t have smartphones, computers or tablets that can connect to high-speed internet. Scott Stevenson, president of the Michigan Telecommunications Association, said it often comes down to the ability of broadband providers to make a business case for network investments when talking about why some communities, whether large or small, have greater broadband access than others. “If Michigan wants to be a national leader in broadband access, it needs to make sure federal funding flows to networks that serve families and businesses and not to governments,” he said. “Michigan policymakers need to enact laws that make us the least costly state for broadband providers to invest in so our residents have the best possible access.” In more urban areas, the lack of internet access can be attributed to affordability. The population density yields infrastructure buildout, but there is a low rate of subscription due to socioeconomic inequality. In rural areas, there have been affordability issues but also a lack of population density and challenging terrain that could hinder an internet provider’s ability to increase access.
Nextlink Internet, which was one of the biggest winning bidders in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, said it has achieved speeds of 1 Gbps doanload and 500 Mbps upload using fixed wireless equipment in the 6 GHz band. The performance was achieved using a 160 MHz channel over distances of two miles, the company said. Nextlink and some other large RDOF winning bidders tentatively won funding to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband at 1 Gbps/ 500 Mbps speeds to unserved rural areas using a combination of fixed wireless and fiber broadband but have not yet had funding released to them. According to Nextlink, fixed wireless providers generally have not yet been able to use the 6 GHz spectrum at standard power levels because they are waiting for the FCC to approve the automated frequency coordination (AFC) system required for standard-power use. The purpose of the AFC is to prevent standard-power access points from operating where they could cause interference to incumbent services.
AT&T is enlisting employees across the organization to make its fiber rollout to 30 million homes by 2025 a success, taking an all hands on deck approach to ensure it pushes penetration rates up as quickly as possible to get a return on its hefty investments. CEO John Stankey said its initial focus for the build has been filling in a patchwork of earlier fiber deployments in metropolitan areas to enable it to advertise in a more efficient fashion. When an entire area is covered, that means it can advertise more broadly to raise awareness about its products rather than having to tailor its efforts to coverage zones that look like Swiss cheese. He added that by focusing all its employees on a common goal, it has been able to ramp up a formidable construction and marketing machine. Stankey added it’s looking to extend its fiber focus to more than just its fixed products. “Everything starts with fiber,” he said. “If you’re truly going to get the benefits of 5G and distributed deployment, every wireless access point needs fiber on the back side of it.”
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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