Version 2 of the FCC’s National Broadband Map is Up!

The Internet for All folks report on the latest iteration of the national broadband maps. A super quick comparison to maps used for the 2022 Minnesota County Profiles leaves me wondering what the difference is. I’m hoping over the next week to dive deeper into the topic – once I can do more than a spot check…

Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released Version 2 of the National Broadband Map. This is an important step in meeting President Biden’s goal of connecting everyone in America to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.

This map is the most accurate depiction of broadband availability in the FCC’s history. Last year, for the first time ever, the FCC generated a National Broadband Map that includes location level data. This tool provides the transparency needed to better understand the digital divide and to target funding to connect unserved and underserved communities across the country.

Below are NTIA’s three key takeaways from the latest data:

  • Through challenges and additional work that the FCC has been doing to improve the map’s underlying Fabric—a dataset of all locations where Internet service can be installed—the FCC added nearly three million Broadband Serviceable Locations (BSLs) while removing nearly two million for reasons ranging from updated data to the use of sophisticated tools to identify and remove structures like garages and sheds.
  • The FCC’s challenge process resolved more than 3.7 million challenges to the availability data —a dataset that shows whether Internet service is, in fact, available at each location, resulting in a more accurate picture of the high-speed Internet service currently available across the nation.
  • The overall national story remains consistent: From version 1 to version 2 of the FCC’s map, the percentage of unserved locations nationwide increased by 0.2 percentage points.

The release of version 2 of the FCC’s National Broadband Map is an important part of the process of implementing the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. This version of the map—plus additional refinements based on the FCC’s continuing work to resolve availability challenges—will be used as the basis for the state allocations for the BEAD program. We know states are eager to learn more about their funding, and we continue to be on track to announce those allocations by June 30th.

It is important to remember that while the number of unserved locations in the FCC’s National Broadband Map will be used in the allocation, it is not a 1:1 correlation to final BEAD funding.  For more information about how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directs NTIA to make allocations, please see our recent blog, “Allocation of Funds.”

NTIA is confident that with this data as a baseline, we will be able to effectively allocate funds by the end of June. We will continue to monitor the FCC’s updates to availability data to ensure that we make a well-informed allocation of these vital funds.

The FCC’s map—and our ability to get the most accurate depiction of Internet access across the country—reflects ongoing collaboration among the federal government, states and territories, industry, and other stakeholders. The data underlying the FCC’s map will help us expand access to the education, healthcare, and economic resources that the Internet provides.

Ultimately, we know tens of millions of people across America do not have access to high-speed Internet service. It is vital we continue to implement this program with urgency and begin the deployment of high-speed Internet infrastructure through the BEAD program as soon as possible.

For more details on how the FCC National Broadband Map Impacts the BEAD Program read our three-part blog series at InternetForAll.Gov

FCC National Broadband Map will impact allocation awards announced by June 30

The NTIA reports

NTIA is preparing to enter a crucial phase for the Internet for All initiative. Soon, we will notify states and territories of their BEAD program allocation amounts. Once we’ve made those notifications, states and territories will have 180 days to submit their initial proposals. We are confident we will have the data we need to take that step when we make our allocation announcement by June 30.

It sounds like they are not expecting big changes…

To understand the impact of the challenge process and additional work that the FCC and its vendor CostQuest have been doing to improve the map, we can analyze the change in broadband serviceable locations between version 1 and version 2 of the Fabric. As the FCC notes, the number of serviceable locations between version 1 and version 2 increased from 113 million locations to about 114 million locations, which accounts for a less than 1% net increase in the total number of broadband serviceable locations across the country.  Note that, as the FCC’s blog further clarifies, this net change reflected both additions and subtractions from the fabric—the FCC added nearly three million locations while removing nearly two million for reasons ranging from updated data to the use of more sophisticated tools to identify and remove structures like garages and sheds.

This tells us three things:

  1. The changes between version 1 and version 2 of the Fabric were relatively modest, and we can expect that changes between future versions of the FCC map will likely continue to be modest.
  1. These modest changes go both ways. States, territories, and the District of Columbia (“Eligible Entities”) could gain or lose locations from version to version.
  1. If the changes to the total number of BSLs is modest—and at less than 1% they were—then it is likely that the impact on the allocation is modest, because the key variable in the BEAD allocation formula is the number of unserved locations in a state or territory relative to the total number of unserved locations nationwide.

 

GAO has 15 recommendations for NTIA’s Tribal broadband programs

Fierce Telecom reports

A government watchdog warned the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) isn’t doing enough to measure the success of its Tribal broadband programs as the agency continues to dole out funding for broadband upgrades across the 56 million acres of Indian Reservation lands. …

Yet while the NTIA continues to dole out funding through the TBCP and the Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP), the agency isn’t doing enough to ensure the successful performance of these programs, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released earlier this year. The report described NTIA’s program management of TBCP and BIP as “generally consistent with recommended practices for awarding grants.” But the GAO took issue with the NTIA’s claims of providing “reliable” and “affordable” connectivity without defining those terms — thereby making them not effectively quantifiable.

These findings prompted a list of 15 recommendations for better performance monitoring and program implementation success. The recommendations would effectively create a dedicated NTIA administrator to establish program goals and measurements within the TBCP and BIP, define and measure “reliable” and “affordable” connectivity, and monitor fraud risk within the program. The status of these recommendations currently remains open, and the GAO intends to provide updates to the responses taken by the NTIA as it becomes available.

From the GAO report here are the 15 recommendations:

  1. For TBCP, the Administrator of NTIA should establish performance goals and measures for all of the program’s purposes—funding broadband use and adoption projects as well as funding broadband infrastructure deployment projects. (Recommendation 1)
  2. For TBCP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure the performance goal is quantifiable and measurable by defining broadband reliability and affordability. (Recommendation 2)
  3. For TBCP, the Administrator of NTIA should designate a dedicated entity to lead fraud risk management activities for the program. (Recommendation 3)
  4. For TBCP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity identifies inherent fraud risks in the program. (Recommendation 4)
  5. For TBCP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity assesses the likelihood and impact of inherent fraud risks in the program. (Recommendation 5)
  6. For TBCP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity determines fraud risk tolerance for the program. (Recommendation 6)
  7. For TBCP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity examines the suitability of existing antifraud controls in the program and prioritizes residual fraud risks. (Recommendation 7)
  8. For TBCP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity documents the fraud risk profile for the program. (Recommendation 8)
  9. For BIP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure the performance goal is quantifiable and measurable by defining broadband affordability. (Recommendation 9)
  10. For BIP, the Administrator of NTIA should designate a dedicated entity to lead fraud risk management activities for the program. (Recommendation 10)
  11. For BIP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity identifies inherent fraud risks in the program. (Recommendation 11)
  12. For BIP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity assesses the likelihood and impact of inherent fraud risks in the program. (Recommendation 12)
  13. For BIP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity determines fraud risk tolerance for the program. (Recommendation 13)
  14. For BIP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity examines the suitability of existing antifraud controls in the program and prioritizes residual fraud risks. (Recommendation 14)
  15. For BIP, the Administrator of NTIA should ensure that the dedicated entity documents the fraud risk profile for the program. (Recommendation 15)

The US needs a National Broadband Strategy – so said GAO study

The study isn’t new but it was discussed Before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives. I’ve tried to pull out the highest-level points. The need for better coordination and collaboration has never been higher as so much gets poured into rural broadband. The amount is not enough to get everyone covered, but certainly there are ways to maximize investment…

How much federal money has been invested and how much to come?

Our prior work found that federal investments from 2009 through 2017 totaled nearly $50 billion for broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas. Starting in 2020, COVID-19 relief laws, along with regular appropriations, have provided an infusion of funding for broadband, including for many new broadband programs. Most recently, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act appropriated nearly $65 billion for new and existing broadband programs. Further, the President has set a goal of universal American access to broadband by 2030.

How many programs are there?

We identified at least 133 funding programs—administered across 15 agencies—that can be used to support broadband access, including support for planning and deploying infrastructure, making service affordable, providing devices, and building digital skills. Some of these programs support broadband as their main purpose or one possible purpose, and others can be used for multiple purposes related to broadband. Eligible recipients for these programs range widely and include: internet providers; other private sector entities; nonprofits; tribal, state, and local governments; education agencies; and healthcare providers. Through these programs, federal agencies invested at least $44 billion in broadband-support activities from fiscal years 2015–2020, according to our analysis of agencies’ data.6 See our report for a list of broadband funding award information by agency and program.

Having numerous broadband programs can be helpful to address a multifaceted issue like broadband access, but this fragmentation can also mean that programs overlap and lead to the risk of duplicative support.

What are the challenges in accessing funds?

  • Identifying relevant programs
  • Administrative complexity
  • Complementary use of programs
  • Unintended results of program restrictions

Is there a plan?

…there is no current overarching strategy that synchronizes these efforts and establishes agency accountability. FCC developed the National Broadband Plan in 2010, and while FCC officials said they still consider the plan relevant as a framework for modernizing policies, they acknowledge it is now outdated.14 Furthermore, officials from several agencies told us that no national broadband strategy of this scope is currently in effect.

What are the recommendations?

In our May 2022 report, we recommended that NTIA consult with relevant agencies, as well as the Office of Management and Budget and other White House offices, and present to Congress a report that identifies the key statutory provisions that limit the beneficial alignment of broadband programs and offers legislative proposals to address the limitations, as appropriate. At the time we issued the report, the Department of Commerce agreed with our recommendation. Since then, NTIA told us it plans to solicit input about statutory limitations and legislative proposals from relevant agencies during interagency broadband meetings. NTIA also told us that it plans to provide a report to Congress by May 31, 2026 that will, among other things, identify barriers and statutory limitations that limit the beneficial alignment of broadband programs and offer potential legislative changes, as appropriate.19

We also recommended that the Executive Office of the President develop and implement a national broadband strategy and that it include a national strategy for closing the gap in broadband access on tribal lands.20 Both strategies should include clear roles, goals, objectives, and performance measures to support better management of fragmented, overlapping federal broadband programs and synchronize coordination efforts. At the time of our report, the Executive Office of the President was considering if a national strategy was needed. As of this testimony, it has not developed a national strategy for broadband. However, the National Economic Council said it is prioritizing broadband coordination, including by chairing a leadership committee attended by key agency heads and convening a broadband working group that coordinates interagency efforts.

There appears to be a timing difference in FCC map challenges depending on whether they are bulk or individual

Thank you Telecompetitor for asking the FCC about broadband mapping challenges. A quick centering of the story … the FCC created new maps saying that federal funding will be doled out (partly) based on the maps. People and communities are worried because the maps are not always correct. People can challenge the maps in two ways. Individuals can submit a challenge for their location OR a community can submit a bulk challenge. The bulk challenge requires more technical skills; turns out unserved communities don’t always have those skills on the payroll. Individual challenges are more straightforward but that means convincing a lot of people to make a claim; turns out, residents of unserved areas may lack broadband, device and skills to submit a challenge. Never mind time required for either type of challenge.

Now the update from Telecompetitor

Over the past few months, the FCC and NTIA have recommended filing dates for bulk challenges to the National Broadband Map, which is updated twice yearly. But stakeholders hadn’t seen similar guidance from either agency about individual challenges.

Telecompetitor asked the FCC about this and, based on what a spokesperson told us, individual challenges could be addressed more quickly than bulk challenges – at least when it comes to availability challenges. Details about that later in this post. First, some definitions.

There are some suggested timelines…

Although any type of challenge can be filed at any time, the NTIA and FCC have advised stakeholders of dates by which bulk challenges should be filed in order for them to be adjudicated in time to impact the next version of the map, which the FCC updates twice yearly.

It sounds like the individual challenges can take up to 120 days to be resolved or processed as unserved but that may be quicker than bulk challenges…

Regarding the timing of availability challenges from individuals, the spokesperson noted that after a preliminary review by commission staff, fixed availability challenges are sent to providers, usually within only a few days. Providers then have 60 days to either concede the challenge (in which case the provider’s availability at challenged locations will be removed from the map) or to provide evidence to dispute the challenge.

“If the provider disputes the challenge, it then has 60 days to work with the challenger to resolve the dispute,” the spokesperson said. “We expect that most challenges will be resolved during these initial phases, but if not, the FCC will review the evidence to make a determination of whether the map will continue to show that the provider has availability at the challenged location.”

The results of availability challenges are reflected on “a rolling basis as they are resolved,” the spokesperson said.

Although the spokesperson did not answer our question asking the filing date associated with the most recent availability challenges that had been adjudicated, the timeline outlined above suggests that an individual would have had to make the challenge at least 60 days and possibly more than 120 days in advance of the next broadband map update expected in May or June in order for the resolution of the challenge to be reflected on that version of the map.

Potentially, that’s less time than NTIA expected the FCC to take for bulk challenges. Late last year, NTIA advised stakeholders to file bulk challenges by January 13 in order to have them adjudicated in time to be reflected on the version of the map that is expected in May or June.

 

Republican US Senators’ recommendations to make BEAD funding easier for commercial providers

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has compiled info on Senator Thune’s recommended changes to BEAD program’s NOFA…

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) led 10 colleagues in a letter to National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson expressing concerns with the $42.45 billion Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). As part of his nationwide broadband oversight effort to hold agencies accountable and ensure funding is being used in the most efficient way possible, Sen Thune urged NTIA to revise or issue a new NOFO for the BEAD program in order to reach, and more efficiently connect, truly unserved Americans. They asked NTIA to address the following issues:

  1. Labor Requirements: Under the Information Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Congress directed NTIA to give priority to eligible broadband providers that have a “demonstrated record of and plans to be in compliance with Federal labor and employment laws.” The NOFO goes far beyond this statutory objective, however, by actively discriminating against workers in ways that could deny communities – particularly those in more rural areas – access to reliable broadband services.
  2. Encouragement of Government-Owned Networks: The NOFO gives favorable treatment to government-owned networks over private investment. Specifically, the NOFO requires states to include “an explanation for awards to traditional broadband providers when one or more non-traditional providers submitted competing proposals.” This misguided incentive, which was not included in the IIJA, could divert program dollars to less capable providers – a real risk given municipal broadband’s track record of costly failure.
  3. Tech-Neutrality: The NOFO generally prohibits non-fiber projects from receiving BEAD funding despite Congress’ technology neutral stance in the IIJA, which permitted all technologies, including wireless service, to be eligible for funding as long as they meet the IIJA’s network requirements. Further, under the NOFO’s rules, a state that does not use fiber must submit an overly complex and burdensome waiver request, inconsistent with Congress’ intent.  States, working with the broadband providers that serve their communities, should not be precluded from awarding sub-grants to alternative technologies, if doing so  is the right solution for their communities. In the absence of such flexibility, NTIA will fail in its mission to efficiently connect all Americans.
  4. Mandates for Affordability and Rate Regulation: The IIJA does not allow NTIA “to regulate the rates charged for broadband service.” Contrary to Congress’ intent, the NOFO requires states to “ensure that high-quality broadband services are available to all middle-class families in the BEAD-funded network’s service area at reasonable prices.” This provision falsely suggests that states and NTIA have the authority to regulate rates for broadband service and should be removed from BEAD rules. Additionally, the NOFO introduces an additional form of rate regulation by giving preference to providers that agree to interconnect with their competitors at wholesale rates. NTIA should make it clear that states do not have the authority to regulate rates, and NTIA should refrain from introducing any new rules relating to rate regulation or wholesale access requirements that are inconsistent with its direction from Congress.
  5. Climate Change Mandates: The NOFO makes several references to and includes a policy that was not included in the IIJA relating to climate change. The NOFO states “eligible entities must account not only for current [climate-related] risks but also for how the frequency, severity, and nature of these extreme events may plausibly evolve as our climate continues to change over the coming decades.” This extraneous requirement was not envisioned by Congress and diverts resources away from bringing broadband connectivity to unserved Americans. The NOFO is not the place for NTIA to be pushing the Biden administration’s unrealistic environmental agenda onto the American public, and it therefore should be removed.
  6. Supply-Chain Issues: The IIJA rightfully recognizes the importance of purchasing broadband products and supplies from American workers and businesses. At the same time, the IIJA provides agencies the ability to waive such a requirement should it satisfy a number of strict thresholds. If NTIA wants to ensure broadband projects are built in a timely manner, NTIA should work alongside stakeholders to develop a consistent waiver process for certain components of a broadband network.

 

Minnesota Recognizes importance of broadband mapping

Telecompetitor writes about the less-than-perfect FCC maps…

Since its initial release last year, the FCC National Broadband Map has faced criticism from a variety of fronts, with complaints ranging from missing locations to doubts about the accuracy of the broadband availability data.

Most recently, a number of senators have proposed legislation to ‘fix’ the maps that would add 7 months to the challenge process for states and other parties.

They recognize Minnesota as one of the states that have taken on mapping…

In response, several states have created their own broadband availability maps to complement or improve upon the FCC’s data. Some examples of state maps include:

And it sounds like we’re ahead of the curve…

The upcoming phase of the BEAD timeline will force states to decide whether or not they will use the FCC’s national map or their own mapping data for distributing broadband funds -or a mix of both. This decision will have major implications for resource allocation and the effectiveness of broadband development in underserved communities.

Minnesota has done their own mapping for many years in part because the Border to Border grant eligibility has relied on the maps. The maps are not perfect, the data is supplied by the providers, tested by the mappers (more spot checked that thorough sweep) and I think the Office of Broadband Development does a good job following up with residents who challenge the map. Minnesota communities have also used crowdsourced maps created by Geo Partners, which is created by folks taking speed tests from their locations. In 2021, Blandin hosted an interesting conversation on mapping and speed tests with local experts: Glenn Fishbine (Geo Partners), Travis Carter (USI) Steve Howard (Paul Bunyan) and Diane Wells (Office of Broadband Development).

Report estimates cost for nationwide ubiquitous broadband at $230 billion – that’s not what’s being invested

Telecompetitor reports

The cost to the federal government to bring fiber broadband to every U.S. household that NTIA considers “unserved” or “underserved” would be approximately $230 billion, according to a study from fixed wireless equipment provider Tarana Wireless, which gave Telecompetitor an exclusive first look at the study. That’s more than five times the funding that the government has earmarked for broadband deployments in the BEAD and RDOF programs, the study notes.

The $230 billion estimate is the amount of funding needing after factoring in the 25% matching funds that network operators are required to contribute to project costs, Tarana said.

Part of a librarian’s bibliographic instruction 101 is looking at who wrote it and why. Here the author is a fixed wireless equipment provider. They are trying to make the case that it’s too expensive to pull fiber to everyone but that wireless is a viable solution…

Guidelines for the BEAD program established by the NTIA require funding recipients to deploy fiber unless the cost per location exceeds the extremely high cost per location threshold or for “other valid reasons.”

Tarana and other fixed wireless stakeholders are hoping that states will seek waivers of the requirement to deploy fiber broadband so that they can direct funding to less costly fixed wireless builds, thereby reaching more people.

In the absence of those waivers, “we will run out of money and will not be [addressing] the Digital Divide today because of how long it takes to lay all that fiber,” said Carl Guardino, vice president of government affairs for Tarana, in an interview with Telecompetitor.

They aren’t wrong. Fiber is more expensive, but it is more reliable. Wireless is impacted by capacity, weather and line of sight issues. So… Do we reach the most people we can? Or do we reach the areas with the hardest business case to make for investment? Or judge by terrain? And if there is a demarcation of where to deploy fiber and wireless – are we creating future broadband ghettos? Yes, a person without broadband now will happily take a wireless connection – but will new people or businesses move into those areas?

The future is both wired and wireless. Communities, residents and businesses that have both are better poised for success. Maybe we ask for more money.

Will Minnesota’s municipal network barriers delay BEAD funding?

Broadband Now reports

For decades, municipal broadband operations have been subject to a minefield of restrictions and barriers designed to make the prospect of establishing or maintaining a community broadband network costly, difficult, and unsustainable.

There are currently 17 states in total that have restrictive legislation against municipal broadband networks in the U.S. To explore further, see a directory of all internet providers in the United States or enter a ZIP code to find all internet providers in your area.

Although no states have managed to remove their restrictions in 2022, 2023 could be the year that things begin to change for states that have historically been opposed to allowing for a public option. A key stipulation in the language surrounding the BEAD grants may set up a large-scale, politically motivated battleground.

Minnesota is on that list…

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. Ann. § 237.19Minn. Stat. Ann. § 429.021

Minnesota state laws require municipal governments proposing to offer telecommunications exchange to obtain a referendum “supermajority” of 65% of voters to proceed. Municipal governments are able to construct, extend, improve and maintain facilities for Internet access only if the city council finds that the proposed broadband network and service will not compete with existing services provided by private telecom companies, or if such services are not and will not be available through private telecom companies in the foreseeable future.

Find and Compare Internet Providers in Minnesota.

The Legislature is in session now. Now would be a good time to look into what would be needed to remove of minimize the barrier.

EVENT June 7: Building for Digital Equity

The Institute for Local Self Reliance reports

As communities across the country are implementing digital equity plans and looking to expand access to high-speed Internet connectivity, the second Building for Digital Equity event (#B4DE) of the year comes weeks ahead of when states will receive their BEAD funds from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Save the date and join us June 7 at 3 pm ET for #B4DE! As with previous B4DE events, this will be another virtual gathering that will offer up strategies to help simplify the complexities (and opportunities) of broadband connectivity. This event, sponsored again by UTOPIA Fiber, will focus on ways communities can foster meaningful action and advocacy.

Fresh off their most successful Net Inclusion gathering ever, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) will join ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks (CBN) team for the event as NDIA’s Pamela Rosales will co-host the livestream along with CBN Director Christopher Mitchell.

The 75-minute free event promises to be informative and include a series of fun interactive games. It will also debut a point-counterpoint component that will focus on the pending release of BEAD dollars for both rural and urban areas and the challenges around mapping as states try to determine how to get the biggest bang for the buck.

Register now for the Building for Building for Digital Equity Event.

TDS looking at broadband funding from ACAM over BEAD

Telecompetitor reports

At a time when some service providers are revving up to get funding in the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) rural broadband funding program, TDS Telecom President and CEO Jim Butman had a surprising take on it.

The company already has upgraded a large part of its traditional local service territory to fiber broadband but has about 500,000 locations that are served by DSL, including about 200,000 or fewer that do not have service at speeds of 25 Mbps available to them. Those locations would be considered unserved and eligible for BEAD funding.

But Butman is more excited about the possibility of getting funding through an extension to the FCC Universal Service Fund ACAM program to deploy fiber to those locations.

Going for ACAM funds make sense because, they would likely get funding long before BEAD money will hit the streets. Also, there’s the issue of non-competitive areas…

BEAD, he said, “is limited to the non-competitive areas and we just don’t see it.”

And although TDS has been aggressively deploying high-speed broadband outside its home turf, Butman was no more enthusiastic about applying for out-of-region BEAD funding than he was about in-region BEAD.

He did say something that I thought was worth noting for potential community partners…

TDS is quite selective in applying for government funding, however.

The company only applies for funding when it sees an opportunity to generate a minimum internal rate of return, and “if we don’t win, we don’t do it,” Butman said.

 

Frontier plans to extend its fiber network but not everywhere

Telecompetitor shares good news for some and bad news for others with a recent update on Frontier. The good news, they are upgrading some areas…

Frontier built to 1.2 million locations in 2022 and was originally targeting 1.6 million locations in 2023. But it is now aiming to reach 1.3 million locations this year – an acceleration in absolute terms from 2022 but far below the originally forecast number.

The bad news, it’s not planning to upgrade other areas…

Dixit noted Frontier’s copper customers continue to generation a “decent” amount of cash for the business. He added the operator will see how many of those locations might be supported by BEAD funding. For those that aren’t, it will then be left with a decision to either keep them or divest them in “some sort of asset swap,” he said.

The article makes it clear that Frontier is grooming itself to acquire or be acquired; so keeping copper customers for the cash must plan into that plan…

“We’re large enough to potentially be a consolidator of smaller fiber players,” he stated during a New Street Research investor conference on Tuesday. “We’re also small enough to be consolidated or be acquired by another larger carrier. So, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

NTIA wants broadband permitting and continued low cost options from States

Statescoop reports

The NTIA is working with other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to streamline permit approval processes, but the agency is concerned that permitting at the state level could potentially be a “bigger issue,” Davidson said.

When states submit plans to the NTIA for how they plan to distribute their BEAD allocations, they will be required to include the steps they will take to ease their permitting processes, he said.

“It’s one of the homework assignments [that states will have to complete], and we’re going to take it pretty seriously,” he said.

As a steward for billions of dollars in federal funding to move the needle on broadband access and adoption, the NTIA “needs all hands on deck to make this work,” Davidson said.

He said the NTIA also wants to ensure that the Affordable Connectivity Program — a Federal Communications Commission program that subsidizes internet bills for low-income households — “continues to thrive.”

NPR introduces the Rural Partners Network

NPR recent ran a story that describes what many readers are experiencing – the excitement of so much money coming becoming available for broadband and other infrastructure projects but nervousness of not knowing how your community is going to apply. So many of the communities that are a good match for funding lack the resources to even look into it.

Rural Partners Network has been set up to help folks. They help with information and are available for help in some communities. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to be available in Minnesota – but I see Wisconsin is on their list.

Learn more from the NPR story – quick to read or listen to it.

Digital equity experts talk about how to sustain the push to improve

Government Technology posts about what’s happening a Net Inclusion, the annual conference for digital equity folks, hosted by NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) – they are the folks who have successfully pushed for better understanding of broadband adoption as well as access for years. This article focused on how we can capitalize on the funding that’s coming through federal channels (BEAD and IIJA) even after those funds are discontinued…

Many communities have digital inclusion ecosystems and have for a good while. The work that comes next for digital inclusion is strengthening them. The NDIA also offers guidance on what makes a digital inclusion ecosystem strong.
This includes having programs and policies that address all of the aspects for the digital divide, including affordable and subsidized broadband as well as device ownership. There should also be multilingual digital literacy and skills training available, tech support and digital navigators to guide residents in all of the above. Finally, there needs to be collaboration on digital inclusion work between policymakers, advocates, social service groups, community leaders and, really, anyone else in a given community that holds public sway.
Another absolutely key thing for continuing digital inclusion work long term is data. And not data that shows people why the Internet is important — that question has been answered — but rather data about the specifics of digital equity programs in a community. To keep this work strong and thriving past its moment, Siefer said practitioners need data around how digital equity programs work, why they work, and who is benefiting from them.
That last question is perhaps the most crucial, as its answer is likely to lead to continued interest and funding. Who benefits from digital inclusion work? The answer is most — if not all — of the nation’s biggest industries: health care, education, telecommunications and even retail.