After watching two legislative meetings today on broadband funding I realized it might be helpful to say – that the Office of Broadband Development (OBD) is technology neutral. Here’s what they say about wireless solutions in their Grant FAQs…
In order to qualify for Border-to-Border Broadband development dollars, does a project need to be wired access only or would a high speed wireless provider qualify if it met the speed goals defined by the grant?
The statute that created the grant fund defines eligible expenditures as “the acquisition and installation of middle-mile and last-mile infrastructure that support broadband service scalable to speeds of at least 100 megabits per second download and 100 megabits per second upload.” To meet this requirement, the grant application (at question 4.7) asks for a demonstration that the installed infrastructure is scalable to speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload and that the information must be certified by the manufacturer or a professional engineer. Any technology that meets this standard will be considered eligible.
Technology is not important – what is important is that the project be scalable to 100/100 – in other words the project must be forward looking. They don’t want projects that will not be able to meet the needs of the users in the near future. The pandemic has given us a glimpse of what that might look like. As students and workforce were shifted to remote work, many households realized that their broadband was not sufficient.
What I heard today was legislators who want to offer the constituents a solution immediately. They are talking to people who have nothing – so they’ll take anything. Unfortunately that’s a short lived satisfaction. If you have 10/1 access today, 25/3 is an upgrade, but it is still not enough if you have several people who will be engaging online (multiple Zooms, uploading homework, getting into the office VPN network) the constituents will still experience difficulties, they will still want more. If the network that is built is scalable, more improvements may be possible. If the network is not scalable improvements would require new building, new investment.
An immediate solution is nice. A solution that meets the needs of constituents now and in the future may be even nicer.
Proposals that strive for higher broadband speeds score higher on application criteria but that is not the only criteria.