Loading...

Broadband ‘Catnip’ to Both Political Parties, Industry Executive Says

October 7, 2021 by Victoria Turner
Rhod Shaw, chairman of the Alpine Group. (Photo from Alpine Group website)

WASHINGTON — Both sides of the U.S. Congress are viewing high-speed broadband as essential. Now, the industry players will have the challenge of reconfiguring a private business model to fit that of a utility, said Rhod Shaw, chairman of the Alpine Group, Wednesday. 

The growing attention on broadband brings an added level of oversight, he said at The Independent Show, sponsored by America’s Communications Association, ACA Connects, and the National Cable Television Cooperative. This growing attention comes with strings attached, he cautioned. Not only are utilities regulated, he explained, but by becoming infrastructure, broadband now has an array of expectations tacked onto it being “a given.” 

“What you are seeing is a lot of money moving into the ecosystem; what you are not seeing is a commensurate recognition that the regulatory environment that you operate in also needs to be addressed,” he said. 

“Broadband is now catnip for both Democrats and Republicans,” Shaw said. “And so every team has a constituency that is in need of support.” And this support will not be free to the providers accepting federal aid for broadband deployment and adoption, he added.

The Federal Communications Commission is currently missing a Democratic commissioner to complete the dais and a confirmation of who is going to be at the helm as chair. 

“By necessity [the commission] has only been able to move forward in areas of agreement,” said Ross Lieberman, senior vice president of government affairs at ACA Connects. And once it has a “full slate of commissioners,”  he said it will be the Democratic-led FCC that will begin introducing “policies that the Republicans are going to strongly disagree on.” This year, everyone can “take a breath” and see a consensus, “but next year it’s going to be much worse.” 

Shaw, however, expressed doubt that the FCC will be fully staffed in 2022, pointing out that  “no single nomination sits alone in isolation” and he does not know if “there is a deal attractive enough to [Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.] to seat a third democratic Commissioner.” 

Echoing Lieberman’s “calm before the storm,” Kelley Drye & Warren partner, Thomas Cohen, said that a democratic majority at the FCC will immediately begin tackling the divisive issues like net neutrality and designation of broadband as common carriers of telecommunication services under the Title II of the Communications Act, seeking to regulate internet service providers the same way they do electricity and giving them the ability to regulate rates and practices.

He pointed to the fact the federal government is funding broadband deployment and adoption is not novel, as it has traditionally funded $5 billion and about $2.5 billion, respectively. 

What is unprecedented is that the current funding bills are doubling the amount of the rest of the decade. President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act alone gives a minimum of $100 million to each state. If the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes, which allocates $65 billion to broadband, “the doubling would continue for another five years.” 

Cohen said the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Program itself has also begun to pay dividends to providers, recalling a service provider telling him they saw an extra $50,000 per month just from the program’s revenue and “others more, others less.” The infrastructure plan is just a “continuation of the Federal government’s” commitment to bringing connectivity to all Americans. 

This time around, however, the tides have changed a bit in that the FCC is not the main agency distributing money for broadband deployment, said Lieberman. A lot of power has shifted to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Executive Branch agency that advises the White House on telecommunications policy issues.

The NTIA is manning three broadband funding programs: the $300 million Broadband Infrastructure Program, the $1 billion Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and the $285 million Connecting Minority Community Program. 

The NTIA, Shaw said, will also be developing the rules and deciding how much money each state will have from the $42.5 billion in block grants allocated to them out of the $65 billion. The states will again receive a minimum of $100 million and the NTIA will decide on how to administer the remainder. 

Biden will also be the one choosing the next FCC Chair, Ross added, and that person will know what their “marching orders are.”  

A+
a-

Broadband

November 16, 2021
by Victoria Turner
Expeto CEO Says Evidence-Based Business Cases Will Drive 5G Innovation

WASHINGTON — 5G technology is already in the business of saving lives through tangible examples of its deployment improving health... Read More

WASHINGTON — 5G technology is already in the business of saving lives through tangible examples of its deployment improving health and safety measures and efficient automation, said Expeto CEO Michael Anderson during Fierce Wireless’s E5G Show’s second day. While enterprises may be aware of the benefits... Read More

November 10, 2021
by Victoria Turner
States Should Regulate Broadband like a Utility, Say CWA Panelists

Broadband advocates called today for state regulatory frameworks to hold broadband providers accountable as they deploy services, particularly to underserved... Read More

Broadband advocates called today for state regulatory frameworks to hold broadband providers accountable as they deploy services, particularly to underserved areas.  On the heels of the bipartisan infrastructure bill passing the House last week, panelists during a Common Cause and Communications Workers of America event noted... Read More

October 29, 2021
by Victoria Turner
Federal Broadband Deployment Needs to Coordinate With Local Governments

PITTSBURGH — Despite the strides made towards increasing broadband access for all Americans through federal deployment and subsidy programs, 30... Read More

PITTSBURGH — Despite the strides made towards increasing broadband access for all Americans through federal deployment and subsidy programs, 30 million households in the U.S. are still not subscribed to broadband services even when they are available, said Ross Lieberman, senior vice president of government affairs... Read More

October 25, 2021
by Victoria Turner
FCC Receives Another $1.3B in Funding Requests for Schools, Libraries, Consortia

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission continues efforts to close the homework gap, announcing another $1.3 billion in funding requests... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission continues efforts to close the homework gap, announcing another $1.3 billion in funding requests were received during the second application window of the Emergency Connectivity Fund program today. This second funding round is poised to support another 2.4 million connected... Read More

October 21, 2021
by Reece Nations
FCC Announces $554 Million Broadband Opportunity Fund Program

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission announced on Wednesday it is set to approve a total of $554,150,641 for the... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission announced on Wednesday it is set to approve a total of $554,150,641 for the third round of funding in deployments of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The FCC previously announced over $1 billion in funding to winning bidders for new... Read More

October 12, 2021
by Dan McCue
Boeing Close to Approval for Broadband Satellite Array

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission is poised to consider an application from Boeing to launch and run an array... Read More

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission is poised to consider an application from Boeing to launch and run an array of broadband satellites. Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel circulated a proposal for voting on Boeing’s application last week. Industry watchers have said the fact Rosenworcel went... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version