Opinions and ideas about broadband policy, universal service, economic development, politics, culture, and more offered by our members and others within and outside of the telecom community
Please Make Grant Applications Public
By Doug Dawson, CGC Consulting
Most broadband grant programs do not publish open grant applications for the public to see. But we are in a time when an ISP that is awarded funding for bringing a new broadband network is likely to become the near-monopoly ISP in a rural area for a decade or two to come. The public ought to get to see who is proposing to bring them broadband so that these decisions are not made behind closed doors.
One of the interesting things about writing this blog is that people send me things that I likely would never see on my own. It turns out that the Nebraska Public Service Commission posts grant applications online. I think that every agency awarding last-mile grant funding should be doing the same.
The particular grant application that hit my inbox is from AMG Technology Investment Group (Nextlink Internet). This grant seems to be asking for state funding in the same or nearby areas where Nextlink won the RDOF auction. The FCC hasn’t yet made that RDOF award to Nextlink almost 20 months later.
The person who sent me the grant application wanted to point out inconsistencies and that the application didn’t seem to be complete. I’m not sure that’s unusual. One state grant office told me recently that they outright reject about half of all grant applications for being incomplete.
July 14, 2022
Jessica Rosenworcel | Chairwoman
It’s only been a few hours since the Commission wrapped up its July meeting, and we’ve already got a new slate of actions lined up for August. Here’s what you can expect at next month’s open meeting.
We’re making sure people know about affordable ways to get connected. The new Affordable Connectivity Program is our country’s largest ever broadband affordability effort, helping more than 12 million U.S. households get online, but millions of eligible people haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity. The historic bipartisan infrastructure law that established the ACP also gave us the authority to allocate funds for outreach. Consistent with the law, the Commission will be voting to establish a multi-million-dollar Outreach Grant Program that would enlist partners to inform people in their communities about the ACP’s benefits, eligibility requirements, and how to apply.
We’re leveraging housing assistance programs to narrow the digital divide. People who receive federal housing assistance disproportionately find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide, and the Affordable Connectivity Program . . . (Click here to read more)
Beyond the Billions:
Policies that Can Deliver on Congress's Broadband Goals
On June 22, 2022, the Hudson Institute presented Hudson Senior Fellow (and former FCC Commissioner) Harold Furchtgott-Roth and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in a discussion about the new federal programs for broadband:
"Circumstances have dramatically changed in the past two years. The United States is losing technological leadership in wireless 5G, and millions of Americans have little access to broadband services. Congress has appropriated many tens of billions of dollars for broadband deployment, but it remains to be seen whether and by how much the federal experiment of large-scale government funding will improve communications services for ordinary Americans."
Watch on Hudson.org: https://www.hudson.org/events/2124-vi...
Broadband bipartisanship: How did it happen and will it continue?
From The Avenue at the Brookings Institution, April 18, 2022
By Blair Levin
"Conventional wisdom holds that last year’s bipartisan passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) reflects the tradition of both parties wanting to deliver better roads and bridges—with nothing new to tell us about making progress elsewhere in our polarized, partisan environment. If anything, infrastructure is the exception that (barely) proves the rule of the current difficulty in finding common ground to meet new challenges.
Perhaps this conventional wisdom is accurate. But one section of that legislation defied both the anchors of history and the dominant political dynamics of the moment: the $65 billion allocated to broadband."
Time for a new digital regulatory authority
By Tom Wheeler
April 15, 2022
"Existing American oversight is constrained at the federal level by out-of-date industrial era statutes and structures. The forward looking leadership of Lina Khan and Rebecca Slaughter at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), for instance, is constrained by that agency’s lack of broad rulemaking authority. Their efforts to make old statutes work in a new era will undoubtedly be challenged by industry in the courts, thus further threatening results. . . .
Creating a new federal agency is the essential vehicle—and the headline grabber. Of potentially greater importance, however, is how that agency will operate. Industrial era regulation was patterned after the management of industrial production: a rules-based bureaucracy. Modern management left that kind of oversight behind years ago in favor of agile management. Digital regulation must follow the same model: flexible and adaptable in order to deal with the rapid pace of technology and marketplace change while simultaneously encouraging innovation and investment."
(Read more here)
THE DEBATE ON UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND REFORM: A PRIMER
By Juan Londoño,
Technology & Innovation Policy Analyst at the American Action Forum
Through several decades, the federal government has funded a variety of initiatives to ensure that all Americans have reliable access to the latest communication technologies. The Universal Service Fund (USF) and its associated programs are, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the “cornerstone” of the Communications Act of 1934, and by extension, other federal efforts to bridge the digital divide. While efforts to promote universal service initially supported the deployment and adoption of telephony, in recent years the fund’s focus expanded from telephone service to “advanced services,” including broadband. The continuous shift in priorities has sparked debates over the fund’s structure, mainly its funding, which currently relies on charges to telecommunications service providers.
This primer outlines the current functioning of the USF, the programs that benefit from it, and the three major reform proposals that are being discussed. (Read more here)
Commentary From The Free State Foundation
By Seth L. Cooper and Andrew K. Magloughlin
On December 1, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to approve one of President Joe Biden's nominees to the FCC, and it held a hearing on another, possibly paving the way for a Democrat-majority Commission to try to reimpose net neutrality regulation on broadband Internet services.
(Read more here)