Monday, June 13, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
Stories From Abroad
The Federal Communications Commission's Office of Managing Director (OMD) announced that the proposed universal service contribution factor for the third quarter of 2022 will be 0.330 or 33.0 percent. Total revenues required for the quarter are estimated to be $2.03631 billion. The industry's projected revenues are expected to be $8.285056 billion.
Christopher McLean, the acting administrator of the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service said that his office has seen so much interest in the third round for its broadband funds that it is considering drawing on other federal infrastructure funds to satisfy demand. The latest round for money from the RUS's ReConnect program received 305 applications requesting a total of $4.8 billion, but the program allocated only $1.15 billion for the round. McLean said that while his office is currently evaluating the applications, it is also now considering drawing on the $2 billion the office was allocated under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to meet the demand for builds intended to connect the underserved. McLean added that the USDA is expecting to announce winners for the third round this summer and is preparing to announce an additional fourth round.
For over a year, I have been sounding the alarm on the troubling lack of oversight and coordination when it comes to the federal government’s expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars that Congress appropriated for ending the digital divide. I have written letters to federal agencies charged with administering those funds to seek assurances that taxpayer dollars are not wasted, and in several cases those letters received no response at all. I have testified about the worrying lack of coordination across federal agencies and their respective programs. I have spoken out about the absence of adequate tracking, measurement, and accountability standards. And I have noted that the Administration’s approach to spending. This troubling new [Government Accountability Office] report only underscores those concerns. The GAO finds that the Administration lacks a national strategy to guide the federal government’s broadband efforts, which the GAO determined are now fragmented over 133 different programs and spread across 15 separate agencies.
This paper uses data on broadband connections and the production and sales of agricultural products to empirically estimate the impact of improved connectivity on U.S. farming outcomes. The Federal Communications Commission has detailed data on broadband subscriptions from its semi-annual Form 477 collection. The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) releases a complete census of agriculture every five years to measure agricultural activity. By pairing periodic releases of the Form 477 data collection with information on farm production expenses and crop yields from corresponding releases of the Census of Agriculture, the analysis directly evaluates the benefit of rural broadband development on the U.S. farming industry. Overall, I find evidence of crop yield improvements from increased Internet penetration rates at thresholds of 25 Megabits-per-second download and 3 Megabits-per-second upload speeds. Among the findings, doubling the number of 25+/3+ connections per 1000 households is associated with a 3.79% increase in corn yields, as measured in bushels per acre. I also find some evidence of cost savings at thresholds of 10 Megabits-per-second download and 0.768 Megabits-per-second upload speeds. Doubling the number of 10+/0.768+ connections per 1000 households is associated with a 2.41% decrease in operating expenses per farm operation. The paper also provides an introductory look at changes in the composition and speed thresholds of connectivity available for selected field crops over time.
The digital divide is a persistent feature in the United States. While most Americans have access to some form of broadband internet connection, the bandwidth, quality of service (QoS), and choice of providers remain highly variable throughout the country. For example, while the residents of many urban areas can choose between gigabit fiber, cable, or digital subscriber line connections from multiple providers, residents in rural areas often suffer from limited platform and provider choices. A fundamental problem with developing effective public policy for broadband in the U.S. is the lack of reliable data for estimating the geographic coverage of broadband service. This paper aims to highlight how data uncertainty can negatively impact coverage estimations in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The state of California serves as our study area. This paper suggests a combination of uncertain broadband data combined with Census data errors co-mingle to create a variable snapshot of local broadband provision and geographic coverage. We provide several strategies for dealing with these uncertainties to improve the evaluation of broadband in California and the United States.
CENIC’s current last-mile efforts for K-12 are funded through the Broadband Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program, which was created in 2019 by Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) and the California State Legislature to identify and implement fiber-based broadband solutions for K-12 schools lacking broadband connectivity. The BIG program emerged from CENIC’s success in supporting the Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant (BIIG) project. As a result of CENIC’s work on these two state-funded initiatives, close to 500 schools and 200,000 students have gained access to the California Research and Education Network (CalREN), predominantly by obtaining circuits that connect schools to their local school districts or County Offices of Education. CENIC and its partners have worked to connect educational institutions to CalREN, a high-capacity broadband network with more than 8,000 miles of fiber and over 100 peering relationships. Founded by the state’s research universities, today CalREN serves more than 20 million Californians, including the vast majority of K-20 students and educators. CalREN responds to the needs of faculty, staff, students, and associated research groups to facilitate excellence in science, education, and government and private sector collaboration and innovation.
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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