There needs to be a way to consistently track the billions in broadband infrastructure money coming from the federal government, said Information Technology and Innovation Foundation panelists. With $42.5 billion coming to the states from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, experts floated the idea of having mandated ongoing reporting requirements on what that money is doing. Brookings Institution senior fellow Nicol Turner-Lee said her research group is discussing their own version of a tracking me
It turns out there are two digital divides in America. The first one is the familiar divide between those who have Internet subscriptions and those who don’t. Everyone agrees this is a persistent concern, with about 10 percent of the public lacking subscriptions at the last count.
Federal Communications Commissioner Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that using the E-rate program to subsidize mobile hotspot devices is a “great idea” and that there may be some activity on that front in the future. The chairwoman was fielding a comment from a mayor of a Texas city, who said that his jurisdiction has a program that lends out connectivity hubs – allowing others to connect to the device – in parts of the town for residents seeking internet. He asked whether that’s something that the FCC could fund.
January 13, 2023 was a major milestone in the process of moving $42.5 billion from the federal government to states to distribute mostly to rural areas to build new, modern internet access networks. January 13th marked the deadline for error corrections (called challenges) to the official national broadband map that will be used to determine how much each state will get.
States have a lot to think about as they determine how to prioritize investing federal broadband dollars. Every state that receives federal funding via the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act’s (IIJA) Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program should have the flexibility to design and implement a plan that meets its policy prerogatives.
National Telecommunications and Information Administration to Seek Public Comment on Developing Spectrum Strategy
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will ask the public what spectrum should become available and for what purposes. The NTIA will develop a “spectrum strategy” designed to free up airwaves for a wide variety of uses. The NTIA will rely on multiple streams of public input, including a request for comment and public meetings to inform this strategy. When designing spectrum policy, the government balances the needs of the federal government – including the national security entities – with those of private industry and others.
Anchor institutions should teach digital skills to low-income communities because they play a pivotal role in getting communities connected, said Senior Fellow at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society John Horrigan. According to Horrigan, skills training within communities is critically important to teaching digital skills and literacy, which will contribute to bridging the digital divide.
States must ease regulations surrounding local building permits and zoning that may prevent internet service providers from building broadband infrastructure, according to experts in community and stakeholder engagement at a June 28 Rural Broadband Conference. “If you want to attract private industry or want to bring fiber to your community, you have to take a serious look at red tape,” said Bob Knight, CEO of marketing firm Harrison Edwards Strategic Communications.
Broadband and higher speeds have made significant contributions to economic growth over the last decade according to Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at Columbia University. Katz conducted his research to determine where the United States economy would be if broadband had not evolved since 2010. He developed four models to explain the economic contribution of broadband, and all found support to suggest that broadband development has contributed to substantial economic growth.
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.