Friday, August 26, 2022
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The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded $143,639,693.50 in funds from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 to Tribes in California and Washington.The awards provide funds for high-speed internet infrastructure deployment projects through the Internet for All Initiative’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program for the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council and Yurok Telecommunications in California and the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Washington. It will connect more than 2,800 homes across the three Tribes; affording more families access to the critical connectivity necessary for learning, work, and telehealth. NTIA has now made a total of 63 awards totaling more than $601 million in funding through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) to date.
The Department of Commerce invites the general public and other Federal agencies to comment on proposed, and continuing information collections, which helps the National Telecommunications and Information Administration assess the impact of its information collection requirements and minimize the public’s reporting burden. The purpose of this notice is to allow for 60 days of public comment preceding submission of the collection to the Office of Management and Budget. NTIA received emergency OMB approval to collect information from applicants using these new forms and is now seeking an extension beyond the November 30, 2022, expiration date. NTIA administers six broadband connectivity grant programs funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, including the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program and the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. Comments regarding this proposed information collection must be received on or before October 25, 2022.
Digital equity is a key promise of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. If successful, the new law will lead to everyone and every community around the country having the connections and skills they need to fully participate in our increasingly digital economy and society. It seems like a tall order. To reach such a lofty goal, the infrastructure law and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) require thoughtful broadband deployment and digital equity planning from the states, territories and tribes that will receive federal funding through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) and digital equity programs (referred to as eligible entities). Fortunately for those implementing these requirements, the field of community development has a well-documented, adaptable and sustainable approach to identifying, engaging and activating community assets. The approach, often called Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), combines practices that marginalized and oppressed communities have used for generations across the globe to gather and implement resources for achieving community goals in spite of contexts of caste, segregation, apartheid, economic inequity, colonization, and other marginalizing systems.
[Ron Dwyer-Voss is the founder and lead consultant for Pacific Community Solutions, Inc. PCS support leaders, organizations and agencies shift power to create positive social change through community organizing, asset-based community development, evaluation and learning, and organizational strengthening.]
States and territories were required to inform the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by July 18 if they intended to participate in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. After NTIA approves a state’s anticipated planning process (due August 15), BEAD unlocks $5 million to each participating state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico ($1.25 million for the four smaller territories) for initial planning. After funds are in hand, recipients have up to 270 days (approximately mid-May 2023) to craft a five-year plan to provide broadband to their residents and businesses. Final deployment decisions will require better maps of existing broadband services than most states have available, where some states have completed their own maps. State maps typically include community anchor and emergency response institutions, schools, transportation corridors, and crowdsourced speed tests. The new Federal Communications Commission map data system (“fabric” in database terms) accommodates this extra information. Once the challenges are resolved, states and territories have 180 days to file their draft initial proposed plans for using BEAD money. Once NTIA approves these initial proposals, states get 20 percent of the total project funds they’ve allocated and a year to finalize deployment plans.
A legal decision in New York State found that the Village of Flower Hill reserved the right to deny ExteNet, an agent of Verizon Wireless, from placing small cell sites within the Village. The decision raises interesting legal and other issues about telecommunications infrastructure. ExteNet was hired by Verizon Wireless to place 66 small cells site in and around the Village, including 18 within the Village, for the stated purpose of strengthening the existing 4GLTE network. Ultimately, the denial was on the grounds that the Village didn’t see any evidence of current gaps in 4GLTE cellular coverage. The case boiled down to language included in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – language that has been described in some cases as ambiguous. ExteNet cited the provisions of the Act that says that no state or local government shall prohibit the ability of an entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service. The Village countered with language also from the Act that says that the Federal Communications Commission cannot preempt the rights of state or local governments to manage the public rights-of-way in a competitively neutral and nondiscriminatory manner. The Court ultimately decided in favor of the Village using additional language from the Act that says that any denial for the placement of telecommunications infrastructure must be supported by substantial evidence. This case says that the community can deny placement if there is evidence to support the denial. The evidence could be something as simple as not wanting construction that disturbs the paved streets.
SpaceX and T-Mobile are partnering to bring wireless phone service to remote areas with spotty coverage. T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced the collaboration August 25, claiming the service will roll out in 2023 and work with existing phones. They're planning to provide text coverage "practically everywhere" in the continental US, Hawaii, parts of Alaska, Puerto Rico and territorial waters, according to T-Mobile. The companies will create a new network broadcast from Starlink’s satellites using T-Mobile bandwidth. It'll start with messaging, MMS and messaging apps and eventually expand to include data and voice, Sievert said. "This partnership has a vision that is the end of mobile dead zones," Sievert said. It's about "imagining a future where if you have a clear view of the sky, you are connected on your mobile phone." The two CEOs issued an open invitation to the world’s carriers "to collaborate for truly global connectivity."
A last-minute challenge has stalled broadband installation in a poor northeastern Louisiana community that Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) used as a backdrop for the July 25 launch of 67 grants to extend high-speed Internet to underserved rural communities. The effort to quash the successful bid for East Carroll Parish claims that about two-thirds of the homes set to get internet access are already being served. It’s just one of 26 complaints statewide that threaten to delay the delivery of high-speed Internet to about 400,000 people in rural Louisiana. Work in the East Carroll community, which was due to start, has been halted. “We expected some challenges. We didn’t expect as many as we got,” said State Rep. Daryl Deshotel (R-Marksville) who sponsored the bill establishing Louisiana's broadband program. Some of the challenges Rep Deshotel has seen involve existing providers who claim to already be providing rural households with fast enough internet speeds to meet the criteria. After a challenge was filed against the winning bidder in the municipality of Avoyelles, Rep Deshotel urged businesses and homes to test the speeds they were getting from the company, which opposed the winning bid. Only 7% reported speeds close to what the challenging company said it had already deployed the sites that would be maintained under the grant, Rep Deshotel said. “Exaggeration is a good word,” he said.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared the responses from the nation’s 15 top mobile carriers following a request for information about their data retention and data privacy policies and practices. Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said:
“Our mobile phones know a lot about us. That means carriers know who we are, who we call, and where we are at any given moment. This information and geolocation data is really sensitive. It’s a record of where we’ve been and who we are. That’s why the FCC is taking steps to ensure this data is protected.... I have asked the Enforcement Bureau to launch a new investigation into mobile carriers’ compliance with FCC rules that require carriers to fully disclose to consumers how they are using and sharing geolocation data. Finally, if you, as a consumer, have concerns or complaints about how your provider is handling your private data, the FCC is making it easier for you to file complaints and make your concerns known—so we can take action under the law.”
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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