Could Trump bring in a ARRA-like opportunity to broadband?

Remember the ARRA stimulus projects? Millions of dollars came into Minnesota for broadband projects – helping providers to expand and upgrade broadband and helping organizations such as the Blandin Foundation to support broadband adoption. ARRA was a game changer.

For years I’ve heard people say  – ARRA was great but it’s not going to happen again. Then not that long ago I heard someone intimate that another ARRA might not be the strangest thing. That was before Trump won the election but that sets the stage for a recent article in Bloomberg indicating that big money will be going into infrastructure – just a matter of how…

Details of President-elect Trump’s plan are murky, but at an estimated $1 trillion over 10 years is twice as long and nearly four times as big as the five-year, $275 billion effort championed by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Candidate Trump’s response during Clinton’s August rollout of her initiative? “Double it.” …

Trump’s site calls for new investments to “create thousands of new jobs in construction, steel manufacturing, and other sectors to build the transportation, water, telecommunications and energy infrastructure needed to enable new economic development in the U.S., all of which will generate new tax revenues.” It’s this crossover appeal for infrastructure investment that makes it ideal as Trump seeks to build bridges in both a figurative and literal sense.

To be fair, the same article includes precautions in expecting too much predictability. And broadband is rarely listed at the top of the new Administration’s priorities but as I often said with the ARRA funding – luck favors the prepared. Here’s what Bloomberg said…

For municipalities with “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, the thought of increased Federal funding for infrastructure projects is an exciting one. Studying project specifications, scopes of work and bid documents to benchmark proposals and pricing from other agencies who have already issued similar solicitations is a time-saving tactic that can help expedite getting the contracts out the door for public bidding.

A-CAM 101: federal funding for smaller broadband providers

Sometimes you just need a practitioner to give the 10,000 foot view of what’s going on when policy and technology combine. I’m thankful to Brent Christensen (from MTA) for his time today giving me the low down on A-CAM.

I’ve talked a lot about CAF 2 funding from the FCC – $85 million a year for 6 years going to Price Cap Carriers (big guys such as CenturyLink, Frontier and Windstream ).

For Rate of Return providers (mostly smaller providers, often in rural areas) the FCC has come up with another plan. Providers can choose to reduce their rate of return OR apply for A-CAM funding:

  • Reduce the rate of return means going from 10.25 percent to 9.75 percent over the next few years.
  • The A-CAM option is available for providers where less than 90 percent of their service can access broadband at 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up and/or receive less than $200 per loop. A-CAM funding is for 10 years.

For most folks it’s a numbers game – can you make more by applying for A-CAM funding or going with strict cut in rate? For some folks, it’s a stability issue. They’ll take a reduction in support for the certainty over 10 years.

The deadline to apply for A-CAM funding was November 1, 2016. They received $160 million more than they had budgeted; they had budgeted for just over $1 billion. So, the FCC is trying again with a round two of applications. In fact that application should be available soon. The providers will have 30 days to respond. The FCC is hoping to be done with the process by the end of the year – in part I’m sure due to political changes.

So many questions still remain.

Why are they funding 10/1 access when they define broadband as 25/3? The reason is to help the folks who have no service. But this stuff is difficult for community leaders, policy makers and really anyone outside the industry to understand without using multiple speed definitions for broadband (10/1 vs 25/3).

Why the continuation of uncertainty? We’re asking providers to continue to make long term investment – albeit with government support. But the uncertainty can be as difficult as the financial pinch.

The biggest question – what will be the impact of political change on this and other broadband funding and regulation?

Senator Klobuchar joins Broadband Policy Goals Event tomorrow (Nov 30) – available online

Promises to be interesting…

Broadband Policy Goals Event with Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to be Held tomorrow, Wednesday, November 30th in Washington, DC

Washington, DC — Next Century Cities, the Schools Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, and US Ignite will host a major policy event, Transforming Communities: Broadband Goals for 2017 and Beyond, on November 30, 2016 from 9:00am-12:15pm at the Google office in Washington, DC.

The event will feature US Senator Angus King (I-ME), Senator John Boozman (R-AR), and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and will bring together broadband champions from the federal, state and local level, community leaders including mayors and heads of anchor institutions, and broadband policy experts.

Transforming Communities will feature keynote conversations and panel discussions on how to expand access to critical next-generation broadband infrastructure in communities nationwide and key policy goals and needs for the new Trump Administration and Congress. It will also include demonstrations of innovative civic applications enabled through gigabit technology.

The event will be livestreamed here and details on the agenda can be found here. Media planning to attend should RSVP to Katie Watson at Katie@NextCenturyCities.org.

WHO:

Senator John Boozman (R-AR)
Senator Angus King (I-ME)

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Larry Strickling, U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary
Mayor Dana Kirkham (Ammon, ID)
Mayor Andy Berke (Chattanooga, TN)
Superintendent Dallas Dance (Baltimore County Schools)
R. David Edelman, Special Assistant to President Obama
Susan Crawford, Harvard Law School
Blair Levin, Brookings Institute
Other national and local broadband champions and policy experts

WHAT:

Transforming Communities: Broadband Goals for 2017 and Beyond

WHEN:

TOMORROW
9:00am- 12:15pm ET
Wednesday, November 30, 2016

WHERE:
Google
25 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20001

Minnesota’s Mark Erickson on promoting Community Broadband in a Trump-Era

CLIC (Coalition for Local Internet Choice) ran an open letter from RS Fiber’s Mark Erickson giving hope to community network proponents in a President Trump world….

In very rural Sibley county, in Minnesota, where I live, the vote was nearly 3 to 1 in favor of Donald Trump.

Our incumbent Republicans were re-elected with ease.

Yet in this very conservative county, 10 city councils and 17 of 21 rural townships have come together to support putting their tax dollars at risk to build a fiber optic network to everyone in those communities and to all area farms. (By means of an update, the four townships that voted not to participate in the project have indicated they might want back into the project.)

I don’t even find it ironic that in the middle of this Trump heartland the overwhelming majority of voters believe broadband is so important that it transcends local, state and national politics.

Why? Because they get it. They understand they will need bigger and better broadband to survive and grow.

And this isn’t the situation only in Minnesota…

In Maine, as in Minnesota, when people realized providers are unable to make the necessary investments in their communities, they began to advocate for solutions that involve local government.

Like rural voters across the nation, they understand the only real way to ensure timely (in their lifetime) access to ultra high speed broadband networks is to take the initiative and make something happen.

I am convinced that sentiment is common throughout under- and unserved rural America.

Let’s take the opportunity this sea change in national leadership presents and raise our voices even louder about the need for effective solutions to what I believe is a growing rural broadband crisis.

Candidates on broadband in MN Senate district 12

Running for Senate District 12 the incumbent, Senator Westrom had this to say about broadband…

Making sure rural broadband is available across the state is another priority of his if re-elected.

“It is the electricity of today where the state can be a partner in the area where you don’t have the business space,” he explained. “Farmers and small business owners can be anywhere when they transact business over the web and that’s a great job engine and economic development tool, frankly for rural Minnesota to have strong broadband,” Westrom said.

His competition, Russ Hinrichs says this…

Improving the rural broadband infrastructure would also benefit farmers and resident in greater Minnesota.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting Notes: request $100 million for grants and $10 million for Office of Broadband Development

The Task Force met today to hammer out their report. The different committees had submitted their section drafts to John Dukich (from MHTA) to combined them, select recommendations to include and write portions of the report to meet the need. Today they met to modify/approve his draft in their committees then read the report together for any edits or modifications.

Then they met to discuss recommendations, including how much to request for the Office of Broadband Development budget and future grants. After much heated debate they agreed to recommend $10 million for the OBD and $100 million ($450 million per year) for grants.

The debate was about how much to request for grants. Some folks felt that with an expected dip in the State budget that $100 million would be more palatable than the $200 million request last year. Others felt that the outstanding need demanded more funding. It was surprising that many of the providers at the table were most vocal about wanting the lower amount, especially since it seems that the money would likely be invested in their industry.

Here’s the copy of the draft report; you can see video of much of the meeting below.

 

And here are my notes…  Continue reading

November 2 Minnesota Broadbdand Task Force agenda

I plan to attend and take notes…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
November 2, 2016
Minnesota Senate Office Building-Room 2308
95 University Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55155

10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. — 10:15 a.m.  Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.  Update from the Office of Broadband Development (OBD)
  • 10:30 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.  Task Force Review and Discussion of Draft Report Content
  • 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Lunch
  • 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Task Force Discussion of Policy Recommendations
  • 2:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.  Task Force Discussion on Finalizing Report—What and Who
  • 2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Wrap-up, Plans for December Meeting, Adjourn