Good questions about CAF from the Anchor Institutions

A lot of public money is going to be going into broadband. It’s important to spend it wisely. Part of spending it wisely is getting users adequate access for today and tomorrow.

Here’s what SHLB (Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition) had to say about it…

Anchor institutions like schools, libraries and health care providers play an important role in bringing connectivity to their local communities. But advances in telemedicine and education will not be fully realized if rural consumers do not have adequate broadband service at home.  School aged children will struggle if they cannot do their homework. Individuals with medical conditions that require active monitoring – diabetes, congestive heart failure and more – need broadband at home to transmit critical medical data in real time to medical professionals.

That is why local government officials and anchor institutions should be paying attention to the implementation of the Connect America Fund, now and in the years ahead. The FCC is working to hold an auction in 2018 to award nearly $2 billion in funding over the next decade from Phase II of the Connect America Fund to service providers to extend fixed broadband to unserved residential and small business locations, and a separate auction to award $4.53 billion in funding over a decade from Phase II of the Mobility Fund to mobile wireless providers to extend LTE service to rural America. Any entity willing to provide the requisite level of service set by the FCC and meet other requirements can bid in those auctions for the subsidy.

Local leaders should ask: is it possible to utilize funding in a more coordinated way from E-rate, the Rural Healthcare program, and the Connect America Fund to build a business case to serve the entire community? What efficiencies might be gained from building an integrated broadband network for the entire community? Are the service providers that currently participate in any of these FCC’s universal service programs planning to bid in these upcoming Connect America Fund auctions? Who else might bid?

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel suggests we crowdsource a broadband map

Today FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel spoke to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She spoke to the need of better mapping to assess the broadband situation in the US and she asked consumers to help identify and map where there is no access to broadband:

“If you’ve not been able to get service, or live in an area that lacks it, help us make a map and write me at broadbandfail@fcc.gov. I’ve set this account up to take in your ideas. I will share every one of them with the agency Chairman—and put on pressure to do something about it.”

Representatives Peterson and Cramer lead bipartisan letter in support of rural broadband funding

From Representative Peterson’s website

This week, Representatives Collin Peterson and Kevin Cramer sent a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to address the budget shortfall in the High-Cost Universal Service Fund (USF). The bipartisan letter, signed by 37 Members of Congress, argues that a lack of sufficient funding for rural broadband development puts millions of Americans at a significant disadvantage.

“More than ever, it’s important that we provide rural communities with comparable broadband services for comparable rates,” Peterson said. “We must ensure that the USF fulfills its obligation to provide all Americans with accessible and affordable high-speed connections.”

The letter is increasingly time-sensitive as the FCC considers adjusting the overall USF budget by the end of 2017.

Read the full text of the letter below:

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

We write to request that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) take action to address the budget shortfall in certain parts of the High-Cost Universal Service Fund (USF).  As outlined in a letter sent to you last May by 160 Members of Congress, this lack of sufficient funding puts the rural communities that we represent at a significant disadvantage.

The annual budget instructions through which the High-Cost USF is funded have not been fully utilized since their implementation in 2011. Despite the appearance of surplus funds in the overall budget in prior years, the Rate of Return (ROR) carriers that benefit from High-Cost USF programs have been subject to strict and separate budget caps under actual cost recovery mechanisms and cost model support. These caps limit broadband infrastructure investments in nearly 40 percent of rural America.

Pending comprehensive FCC review or adjustment of the High-Cost USF budget instructions, we strongly urge you to maintain level collections from telecommunications companies into the future. To the extent that the collected sum exceeds High-Cost USF spending obligations at the time, the FCC should directly apply funds to help mitigate or neutralize the budget constraints applied to these smaller, rural operators.

While it is currently unclear how funds that exceed High-Cost USF spending may be obligated under existing budget instructions, their continued collection has the potential to help provide rural communities with comparable broadband services for comparable rates relative to urban areas. In doing so, the country will move closer to the fund’s stated mission to provide all Americans with “accessible, affordable, and pervasive high-speed connectivity.”

Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the “digital divide” does not exclude millions of rural Americans from the services that they, and our economy, depend on.

Lawmakers to FCC: Do Not Weaken Broadband Internet Standards for Americans

Several Minnesota Legislators on this list…

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), Senator Al Franken (D-MN), and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rick Nolan (D-MN), and Keith Ellison (D-MN) sent a bicameral letter today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai opposing his efforts to lower broadband Internet standards for millions of Americans.

The letter comes in response to a recent Notice of Inquiry that suggested the FCC will consider significantly lowering national advanced broadband standards from the current level of 25 Mbps download / 3 Mbps upload down to 10 Mbps download / 1 Mbps upload. Additionally, the FCC is contemplating a finding that Internet access through a cellphone plan is a sufficient substitute for fixed broadband at home.

“As you well know, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to economic development, public safety, and a vibrant quality of life. Ensuring every home, school, and business has adequate access to the Internet is essential to unlocking the innovative potential of all Americans …” wrote the lawmakers. Simply moving the goalposts is not a policy solution, and weakening the definition of high speed internet is a disservice to the rural and tribal communities the FCC has an obligation to serve.”

The changes currently contemplated could immediately result in reduced connection reliability and Internet speeds for rural, tribal, and low-income communities in every state. In 2016, according to the FCC, 39% of rural America and 41% of those living on tribal land lacked access to advanced broadband, which is defined as 25 Mbps/3 Mbps under current FCC policy.

“At this time, mobile access at 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is not a reasonable replacement for fixed advanced broadband at home. This fact is well known to any child seeking to complete a homework assignment, small business owner hoping to develop an Internet presence, or individual completing an online job application or communicating with their doctor,” added the members of Congress in today’s letter.

In addition to Reps. Huffman, Pocan, Nolan, Ellison, and Senator Franken (D-MN), the letter was signed by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as well as Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), John Conyers (D-MI), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), John Lewis (D-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Michael Doyle (D-PA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Timothy Walz (D-MN), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), John Yarmuth (D-KY).

The letter is supported by Public Knowledge and Communications Workers of America.

You can read more about Rep. Huffman’s work to increase access to broadband for every Americans here.

The full text of the letter can be found here or below.

The Honorable Ajit Pai
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Pai:

We write in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) request for comment in the recent Notice of Inquiry (NOI) “Concerning Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion” (GN Docket No. 17-199). We are gravely concerned that the policies contemplated by this NOI could undo significant progress and investment by the FCC and Congress to ensure that all Americans have access to reliable, high-speed broadband. Specifically, we strongly oppose any proposal to lower speeds from the current standard of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload to 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps or to find mobile broadband as a universally appropriate replacement for fixed, home broadband.

As you well know, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to economic development, public safety, and a vibrant quality of life. Ensuring every home, school, and business has adequate access to the Internet is essential to unlocking the innovative potential of all Americans. However, as the annual section 706 broadband report demonstrates, our nation’s rural and tribal communities continue to lag behind urban America and much of the developed world when it comes to broadband access, speed, and reliability. As the FCC has noted, thirty-nine percent of rural America and forty-one percent of those on Tribal land lack access to advanced broadband.

The FCC has a statutory obligation to take steps to deploy broadband that supports high-quality telecommunications capability to all Americans in a reasonable and timely manner. The policy changes contemplated by this NOI would run counter to the intent of Congress by attempting to fulfill that statutory obligation through definitional changes, rather than concrete action to connect more Americans online. Simply moving the goalposts is not a policy solution, and weakening the definition of high speed internet is a disservice to the rural and tribal communities the FCC has an obligation to serve.

In particular, we are concerned with any effort to weaken the FCC’s current policy finding that every American should have access to broadband services with speeds of at least 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload. Finding instead that only mobile service of 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is sufficient would result in significantly slower and less reliable Internet access for millions of Americans, particularly those with low incomes or those living in rural and tribal communities. At this time, mobile access at 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is not a reasonable replacement for fixed advanced broadband at home. This fact is well known to any child seeking to complete a homework assignment, small business owner hoping to develop an Internet presence, or individual completing an online job application or communicating with their doctor.

We strongly urge you to maintain the highest connectivity standards, which are critical to the FCC’s statutory obligation to support high-quality telecommunications capability to all Americans.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,

Senator Lourey Lack of broadband hurts healthcare in Otter Tail County

The Fergus Falls Daily Journal reports…

District 11 Minnesota Sen. Tony Lourey visited Fergus Falls on Tuesday afternoon to speak with local health care leaders and government officials. The fourth of 10 visits across the state, Sen. Lourey hoped to learn more about dynamic approaches to health care management being employed in rural areas, in an effort to better inform future conversations in the state Senate.

Turns out broadband access is a big barrier in the area…

Broadband internet infrastructure across the region is another concern, according to John Dinsmore, director of community Services for Otter Tail County. Dinsmore explained that the same lakes which make the area so desirable for residents also present a considerable challenge when laying fiber optic cables.

In fact, recent estimates anticipate that the necessary expenses for installation of broadband services across the county would total nearly $170 million.

Still, the improved service coverage would mean enhanced appeal for rural communities looking to attract medical professionals. At present, those considering small-town living may feel isolated.

“You’re not connected — literally,” Dinsmore said.

US Democrats (Including Sen Nolan) call for $40B investment in rural broadband

The Hill reports on Democrats proposal to invest in rural broadband…

Congressional Democrats are calling for a $40 billion investment to expand internet access in rural and inner-city communities, likening their plan to New Deal efforts to expand the electrical grid.

The new proposal is the latest addition to the party’s “Better Deal” agenda launched in July.

Democrats say public funds are needed because internet service providers on their own have failed to cover large swaths of the population.

The article includes high level details and mentioned Minnesota’s Rick Nolan as a leader in the effort…

Under the plan, the $40 billion would go toward funding private and public infrastructure projects, mapping internet access across the country, upgrading outdated internet capabilities and building out public safety infrastructure.

The proposal was unveiled Thursday by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Tester, along with Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) and Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.).

Video – Why 23 million Americans don’t have fast internet

There are a lot of things I like about this video – you just need to know in advance that it doesn’t end after 2:30 or 3:30. It’s great to hear about wireless solutions – but for today as the video says, we need to look to the past to get the infrastructure we need! And that solution is in the second half of the video…