Tuesday, September 12, 2023
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Data & Mapping
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With the common aim of ensuring that all people and communities have the skills, technology, and capacity needed to reap the full benefits of our digital economy, each of the 50 states is currently drafting a digital equity plan through what one official called “the largest demonstration of participatory democracy that our country has ever seen." The states are tasked with developing long-term objectives for closing the digital divide by addressing the needs of eight "covered populations"—including low-income households. Several states have released their draft digital equity plans and one tool they all rely heavily on for connecting—and keeping connected—low-income households is the Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). However, estimates from the Federal Communications Commission project that funding for the ACP could run out within the next year. Also see:
- Louisiana is Depending on the ACP to Eliminate the Digital Divide
- ACP Key to Montana's Digital Opportunity Plan
- The Single Most Impactful Affordability Asset Currently Available to Utahns is the ACP
- West Virginia's Vision for Digital Plan Depends on the Affordable Connectivity Program
- Wyoming Relying on ACP for Affordable Broadband
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance estimates that the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) will run out of money in 2024. However, a bipartisan coalition of 45 lawmakers are simultaneously pushing for the ACP to be funded by other appropriation measures currently in Congress. With widespread Congressional and industry support, it seems likely the ACP will be renewed—albeit probably after the September 30 deadline. But it also seems increasingly likely that renewal may come at the cost of one or several other federal broadband programs. Groups like the NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association–disagree, noting that the ACP and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) and Lifeline programs provide useful and decidedly different functions.
In rural areas, many large internet service providers (ISP) offer voice-over-IP. Nathan Smith, Director of Economics and Policy at Connected Nation said, “It’s likely that a lot of [Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD)] sub-grantees will add voice for an additional revenue stream." However, the BEAD Notice of Funding Opportunity does not require grant applicants to offer voice service, though the actual grants will be made by state governments who set their own rules. Ciena’s Solutions Marketing Senior Adviser Vinicius Santos expects some state broadband offices to ask applicants to provide voice service, noting that the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) required it.
Data & Mapping
Virginia Tech bested the Federal Communications Commission in mapping the commonwealth’s broadband needs. The prize: an additional $250 million in federal money to help fill those high-speed internet voids. The Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information Technology calculated that the FCC had undercounted by 180,000 underserved locations and challenged the numbers. The FCC conceded about 80,000 locations that are now eligible for support from the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act’s (IIJA) Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is requiring state broadband offices to have one final mapping challenge at the state level before the state can issue the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grants. This final challenge is the one that folks have been waiting for since the NTIA suggests that there can be a challenge against the claimed broadband speeds. My consulting firm has been working with communities, and we are still seeing a lot of inaccurate information. This is because Federal Communications Commission rules allow broadband providers to claim marketing speeds for broadband instead of the actual speed delivered. In every county we have examined, we find broadband providers claiming speeds of 100/20 Mbps or faster that are not supported by Ookla speed tests.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is convening the first AI Insight Forum on Sept 13, bringing together some of the top people in AI to discuss the risks and opportunities posed by advances in this technology and how Congress might write legislation to address them. Sen. Schumer said he’s planning for “an open discussion about how Congress can act on AI: where to start, what questions to ask, and how to build a foundation for SAFE AI innovation.” The SAFE framework is not a legislative proposal but rather a set of priorities. Those priorities include promoting innovation, supporting the American tech industry, understanding the labor ramifications of AI, and mitigating security risks.
The National Content & Technology Cooperative (NCTC), formerly known as the National Cable Television Cooperative, has completed the build of its Connectivity Exchange platform, which allows NCTC broadband provider members to compete for and win bids to provide services to commercial customers through a single unified network. Initially focused on negotiating video-related deals for smaller broadband and pay TV provider members, the NCTC's focus has expanded to include offerings such as a mobile virtual network operator offering through AT&T. The unified network established through the platform has the potential to reach approximately one third of connected buildings in the US.
Midco is a midwestern service provider that offers broadband via hybrid fiber coax (HFC), fiber-to-the-home, and fixed wireless access (FWA). The company serves 490,000 homes and businesses in 400 communities in Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Midco is doing greenfield fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) builds in new communities and to large multi-dwelling units. But in brownfields, it’s doing a mix, adding fiber deeper into neighborhoods, but also upgrading its cable plant. “The good thing is DOCSIS 3.1 has a long runway to continue to improve speeds,” said Midco COO Ben Dold. “Right now, our near term is to continue to bring fiber deeper and push DOCSIS 3.1 further as we evaluate.”
President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Basil Ivanhoe Gooden for Under Secretary of Rural Development in the Department of Agriculture. Gooden currently serves as the Director of State Operations for the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Rural Development. Appointed to this position in July 2021, he is responsible for providing leadership, support, and supervision to the 47 State Directors in USDA Rural Development. Gooden has led the efforts in planning and establishing the newly created State Operations Office in Rural Development. Before this, he served as the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2016 to 2018. As Secretary, he provided strategic vision and leadership to two of Virginia’s largest private industries, agriculture and forestry, with an annual economic impact of $91 billion on the Commonwealth.
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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