Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 488

This is the transcript for episode 488 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. In this episode, Christopher Mitchell is joined by Senior Reporter and Editor Sean Gonsalves, Community Broadband Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar, Senior Researcher Ry Marcattilio-McCracken, GIS and Data Visualization Specialist Christine Parker, and Associate Broadband Researcher Emma Gautier. They have a conversation about 2021 and some predictions about what the coming year will look like. Listen to the podcast here or read the transcript below. 

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. It's 2022. I'm Christopher Mitchell. I'm still at home. And is this is our predictions show where we go over last year's predictions and wow. I would say that we did pretty well, but we'll see how, what you all think. We have a subsection of our staff here, the, the people that are super enthusiastic about thinking back and thinking forward in the new year on a Friday afternoon. So really excited. I'm co-hosting with me today. We've got DeAnne Cuellar. Welcome back to the co-hosting slot, DeAnne.

DeAnne Cuellar: Thank you, Chris. I'm so glad to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And we have other voices that'll be jumping in from time to time, but just so you can get a sense of them. Let me note that Sean Gonsalves I, I feel like was the star of the show last year and and may or may not be up for it today. We'll see

Sean Gonsalves: Guilty as charged

Christopher Mitchell: .

Sean Gonsalves: I don't even remember last year's show, to be honest. I had to go back and read the transcripts.

Christopher Mitchell: I did too. And I'm, I'm once again, I have this feeling of like, was this really last year? Was this three years ago? Do I have the wrong transcript? You know, someone that I thought just had a very, very low impact on last year's show is Christine Parker. , welcome to your first podcast with us.

Christine Parker: Thank you. Happy to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And our returning champion Ry Marcattilio-McCracken.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Never been more excited about anything in my life, Chris, Good to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: , and I'm super excited cuz I got heat that works. And anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I don't always have heat that works lately. And you know, we've got several more days of which the high is gonna be at or near zero. So it's a pretty good thing to have hot water and hot pipes when it comes down to I don't know, trying to live and be typing without fingers that are breaking off like you submerged them in liquid nitrogen. Last year we picked out a bunch of different predictions and I, I think I'd like to just start by asking people to reflect a little bit. Like, as we look back and DeAnne, you know, you could look at the predictions, you weren't there and, but I'm sure you had feelings about last year. I feel like we did pretty well, not for like how the quality of our predictions, but just things went well, right? Like, I have more things to celebrate than I have to complain about today. And I'm curious how other people react to that.

2:36

DeAnne Cuellar: I agree. I feel like we did pretty good as well as we could have, even if there wasn't a global pandemic still, like, you know, going on. But yeah, researching, we're, we're getting ready to, you know, to go onto our third year of a pandemic and even, you know, from our homes and we were able to accomplish a whole lot. But I think that that's also one of the things I wanted to hear from, you know, I wanted to hear about from people on the call today is that now going into this third year and the opportunities that are in front of us with federal funding and recovery funding, we're gonna have to be even louder than ever from the grassroots to the belt way. And I wanted to know if like people had any predictions or ideas about how communities might be thinking about doing that?

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: That's a good question. Deanne, I guess I would say I maybe am a little more optimistic this year. Like Sean, I don't remember much of last year's show, but I think a lot of the stories that we've told this year show that a lot of people around the country are getting better at talking about this in ways that are having local impact. And so at the very least, that's an exciting thing to see. And I think there are going to be a lot of great stories to come in 2022.

Christopher Mitchell: Sean, Super, super like the glasses is not just half full but leaking radioactive waste guy. How do you, how do you look back at the last year? I mean, do you come away with more feelings of, of positiveness or negativity based on, on this, the kind of stuff you were covering?

Sean Gonsalves: Believe it or not, much more positive. I think it was a banner year for broadband for sure. You know, I mean the infrastructure bill passed the American Rescue plan. Money is, is being distributed. And from what I understand, the the rules are terrific. We, we saw two states roll back there, preemption laws. So I would, I would say that it was a, it was actually probably one of the better years for broadband in a long time.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes. Let's, let's just dive right in cuz you just noted two of the, the predictions. And I, I feel like that's where I wanna start is where you put it, Sean, which is I feel like we, I had asked about us predicting kind of how the Biden administration would do on broadband. And when we were recording, you were had just finished publishing, I think the series on the American or the Affordable Accessible Internet for All Act, which was pathbreaking. And I think we were all super excited about it and we're kind of thinking, well, parts of this get into law we'll be doing pretty good. And I don't know. I feel like what happened basically everything that we wanted happened with the exception of the federal government stopping the states from interfering with local governments. We did not get any of our relief from the federal level that would've stopped states from prohibiting municipal networks and then partnerships and that sort of thing. But the amount of money that went in, the fact that it's actually being distributed to the states the fact that the rescue plan dollars went to local governments if you'd told me last year that this is what was gonna be happening, I would be doing cartwheels. And I'm really bad at cartwheels. It takes a lot to make me do a cartwheel.

5:39

Sean Gonsalves: A good point. The AAIA I call it that because I don't remember if it's affordable, accessible or accessible, affordable. But yeah, I think you know, the thought was that it was a pipe dream, but you know, also that was when that was introduced. It was prior to the election. So, you know, elections matter,

Christopher Mitchell: Senate elections matter too

Sean Gonsalves: For sure.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. So, yeah, I mean, I'll just I felt like if, if you asked me two months ago, I think I might have been more pessimistic, but the fact that we're recording this the day after treasury updated their rules to once again give cities the authority that we felt that Congress intended for them to have, to make decisions more granularly and not be limited in where they could invest this money on broadband in a significant way. I, I'm, I'm filled with all kinds of positive feelings toward the Biden administration with where we are today on broadband. There's so much more to do, but like, I cannot fault them very much at all for where we ended up and DeAnne, I'm curious how if that's where you come down to.

DeAnne Cuellar: Yeah, I mean, I mean, I'm also thinking about how almost 10 years ago we were talking about getting local, state and federal elected officials to make connectivity their one of their issues, right? And people were said like, that's never gonna happen. Don't, don't run people, you know, to get elected on that. They won't get elected. And now you've got people all over the country, you know, at the local state and federal level who are talking about connect, connecting their communities and building infrastructure as, you know, one of their issues. And I, I'm glad to see that and I'm glad that they can talk about it. And I'm glad there are so many people that want to work on it. And I, I honestly, several years ago thought that that would, I would be an 80 year old woman at a neighborhood association, meaning shaking my shaking fingers saying, Yeah, I told you you should worry about this issue. But now that you know, I'm not 80 and people are talking about it,

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. I mean, I, I think this is where I would perhaps, you know, Sean might have something colorful to say about it, but I, I definitely feel like there's still a lot of people who will only talk and they're not gonna do any action. But but we've moved forward with that. Now, Sean, you were aggressive in believing that we were gonna get rid of some state preemptions. I, I feel like we all picked numbers, but you were the one who had, I felt like some certainty you thought that we were gonna lose the Colorado barrier, which is a pretty small one in that we were gonna have be down to a total number of barriers. That's 15.

8:04

Sean Gonsalves: I was wrong about both of those. I mean, it, it, I was heading in the right direction.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, you were.

Sean Gonsalves: I looked at the transcript to remember what my prediction was. I was trying to be bold and said that number would go from 20 to 15,

Christopher Mitchell: 19 to 15.

Sean Gonsalves: 19 to 15, correct. Yes. we got it down to 17. The good

Christopher Mitchell: People of Washington and Arkansas,

Sean Gonsalves: Washington and Arkansas, , Colorado didn't. And now that I think about it, it makes sense that probably that that lot didn't get repealed just because it's, I wouldn't go so far. Say it's easy in Colorado to get around it, but at least there's a mechanism for it. And if you, if a local community wants to opt out, they can. Right? so, so having thought about that more, I should have taken that a consideration, but I'll try to, I'm horrible at prediction. So the,

Christopher Mitchell: Everyone is,

Sean Gonsalves: The good thing about me making pessimistic predictions is that because I'm so horrible at it, my pessimistic predictions hopefully will, you know, the energy of that will go out into the universe and say, Oh, Sean predicted it, he'll be wrong. So let's do the opposite. So, so I've got a number of other pessimistic predictions for the upcoming year that we can get into at some point. But

Christopher Mitchell: We will, But let me, let me say this cuz I saw a great comic today that I just totally made my day. It said it was it was these two guys talking in a garden and one of them says, I'm predicting that there's gonna be flowers in the next year. And the other guy's like, why? And the first person says, Cuz I'm planting flowers, . And that's what we do. , right? So I just really like that. And that's, that's, that's how we're making the future here. But give credit to H you know, H was on our staff has been on this show off and on over the years and last year she was on the show and they predicted 17 and we ended up at 17. Let's talk about next year. I'm, and we're gonna have to go around here quick, so I'm being very specific here. I think we're actually gonna be at you know, 17 minus four. So 13 because four states will repeal, five states will repeal and one will put it back rye. Where are you at?

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: I think I'm going to be a little more measured this year. I'm gonna say that we're going to lose one. So we'll be down to 16 at this time next year.

10:26

Christopher Mitchell: Christine,

Christine Parker: My lucky number is three, so I'm gonna say minus we're gonna lose three or Yeah. Yeah. So down to 14

Christopher Mitchell: Sean. And I'm making DeAnne go last cuz you're the cohost. You have the hardest burden, all the numbers will be

Sean Gonsalves: Gone. Okay. My prediction on that front is that we'll get one more state to roll back. Its preemption laws. And I'm gonna add a bonus. The, the muni band proposal that surfaced in Ohio will not make a return.

Christopher Mitchell: It won't even be proposed.

Sean Gonsalves: It won't even be proposed

Christopher Mitchell: No light of day. Okay.

Sean Gonsalves: So that, that, and that I will say is the most optimistic prediction that I will make at, in our time together here today.

Christopher Mitchell: All right, DeAnne?

DeAnne Cuellar: I, I agree with you Chris. I also would just add that I think we're going to see more involvement from people who would've been against us in the past, just because I do believe this has become a nonpartisan issue, but, you know, historically has been a partisan issue. And because of the pandemic, you know, the one good thing that came from the pandemic is that people have, are now starting to see this as a nonpartisan issue. So I think we could see more.

Christopher Mitchell: And we have one lurker here. I just wanna see Emma, do you wanna jump on just real quick and make a prediction? Just pick a number you don't have to, and just shake your head of you saying no,

Emma Gautier: I'm gonna go with Christine and say three also. It is my lucky number, but I think that it's not two out there. So

Christopher Mitchell: Excellent, excellent. I predicted 20 new municipal fiber networks. I'm not really really sure how to count this. I mean, there's just this whole big problem about like, are we counting, you know, them only when they start connecting customers, when they break ground, when they this, that I feel like we're, I was in the ballpark. I'm feeling good about that. Anyone wanna challenge me?

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: No, I didn't. I think you're, you're pretty close. Yep.

Christopher Mitchell: What do we think it for next year? They wanna go out there and say something crazy. So to give you an idea, like, I mean, if we saw, like right now there's about, I wanna say like 80 citywide networks ish. You know, let, let's call it like approaching a hundred citywide networks that have either been completed and some of them decades ago, some of them are, will be completed in coming years. And so like if we were to say 50 citywide networks would be seriously announced in, that would be a significant change. To me that seems a bit bold. I think cities are gonna be studying it more and I don't know that we'll have that many, like full on, like it's really gonna happen kind of things. But it wouldn't surprise me if it's more than 20, but less than 50. That's a terrible prediction. Just awful

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Between 20 and 50. I'm curious what you think. So if we think 20 happened LA about 20 came last year and we wanna say anything is materially different this year than what is, you know, what else is on the table? That wasn't last year

13:03

Christopher Mitchell: They're a rescue plan,

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: But that's not gonna start to get to dispersed.

Christopher Mitchell: No, but it's sort of changed motivations. And then, then like New York State, I mean, like they're, how, look with this stuff they're doing at California, a lot of the, the changes over the course of this year are gonna percolate down from through next year. You know, I think we see like one or two popping up in Tennessee. There's a possibility that there's, you know, there could be 50 in Tennessee alone. It would be shocking if they were all next year. But anyway, that's, I think that's, and the, the, what I think listeners might take away is that none of us think that, that's a crazy thing to say is that it is possible that over the next three, four years we could double the number of municipal networks. And also in recent years we've seen like I mean Knoxville, Tennessee Fort Collins and big cities, it's not just small cities doing this. You know, it's these these mid-size cities I guess is what they're called. So okay, I've been talking way too much. Let's go to one of Sean's, cause I know Sean's got a bunch. I don't know if Ry, Christine or DeAnne prepared as many, but Sean, what's another one of yours

Sean Gonsalves: When states get their money, infrastructure money that is for the bead program.

Christopher Mitchell: It will be 2023. That's my prediction. .

Sean Gonsalves: See, Well you should, Yeah. Well you know, that kind of undermines my whole tradition,

Christopher Mitchell: .

Sean Gonsalves: I was going to say that at least a third of the states will not be ready to apply for the money.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. So when the money's available at nt, I at least a third of the states will be dragging their feet.

Sean Gonsalves: They'll either be dragging their feet or they will have absolutely no idea what they should do because there are certain requirements to even access that money, which involves, you know, actually having a plan. For example, the state that I'm in apparently doesn't have a plan right now, Massachusetts. Why would they need a plan? They got so many smart people figured out.

Christopher Mitchell: I was in a call recently and I don't think this is my idea entirely. It was kind of like of like a product of the call. There's this challenge that NTIA has to wait to distribute the money based on FCC mapping except they could distribute a hundred million dollars before that is done. Cuz we know that each state's getting at least a hundred million dollars. And that would be a pretty smart move by NTIA's part I think would be to get that money ready to get things moving while we figure out where the rest of the money goes. So that would be kind of cool. But I, any other que any other predictions around how, whether it's bead or or the, the CCPF, the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund from treasury? Any sort of predictions around this?

15:30

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Uh, I've gotta related what, I'll hop in and steal something from Christine maybe and say that all the good mapping action in 2022 will be at the state level. Some of them will see this stuff coming down the pipeline.

Christopher Mitchell: Oh, I think, I think right. Just made an enemy.

Christine Parker: Oh, you totally scooped my prediction .

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: So I'm gonna say that we'll see five more state level broadband maps like Georgia. And maybe you could hop in Christine and tell us if you think they're gonna be more

Christine Parker: That was also exactly my number. I don't know how you've done this. I guess I don't have specific state guesses, but I, I, you know, based on what they've been doing, Georgia from the state map and folks getting inpatient waiting for the, the new FCC map will probably start to work on their own calling that model. I guess my follow up to the, the map prediction would be that we probably won't see the, the new FCC map this year is my guess, since we're still waiting on last year's regular data.

Christopher Mitchell: Yep. Yeah.

Christine Parker: Patiently of course.

Christopher Mitchell: Agreed. DeAnne, a reaction or or a new prediction?

DeAnne Cuellar: Not really. I, I, I think one thing that I'm hoping for is the sense of urgency in the new, this new year happens with funding as it relates to all the things we're, we're talking about to tell, to tell someone living in the United States, cuz we're only talking about United States right now, that things are gonna be happening year by year is not an easy pill to swallow. I think for the constituents. So I'm hoping that like pressure from constituents, you know, makes its way to the federal level to create a better sense of urgency.

Christopher Mitchell: Mm-Hmm. , I think the supply chains that are holding us back will largely be resolved by the end of 2022 with notable hiccups here and there along the way. But the people chain will not be, I think if anything it could be a lot worse where there's just people who are desperate to hire people who know this space. I think if I open my LinkedIn page, I can pretty much guarantee you that in the first couple of entries it's gonna be someone begging. And if you know anyone that has broadband skills, we really need 'em in this position.

17:40

DeAnne Cuellar: That was the other thing I was thinking about right before you got you know, asked that question. I was just thinking about that. It was just like, there is this like whole field of, you know, I wouldn't call it emerging because, you know, it's been a small field for so long, but you know, you see tech companies, school districts for profit, non-profit. They're all, you know, trying to find people that speak broadband. Mm-Hmm. , those of us on, you know, that are all here right now. You know, there's always been some way to study the humanities of connectivity, like that's what they call it in other countries, but not so much here in the United States. We've sort of, it's a sort of a patchwork of how you become an expert on this issue.

Sean Gonsalves: Well, I'm gonna go on the other direction, Chris, in, as far as your prediction is concerned about the supply chains,

Christopher Mitchell: Aliens will land, they'll have plenty of knowledge and the supply chains will be just destroyed.

Sean Gonsalves: See, I love how you think you're so, you know, you're so imaginative and, and and optimistic. That would be great if that happened. Actually. Scary, but great. But no, I'm gonna run in the other direction because the older I get, the more get off my lawn. I become,

Christopher Mitchell: You can't say get off the lawn when you smile as much as you do .

Sean Gonsalves: So you say the supply chain issues will, will significantly improve. And I'm going to say that the fiber order backlogs will skyrocket.

Christopher Mitchell: All right. There you have it. Anyone else wanna wanna pick sides here?

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: I don't, Yeah, so I don't know about the fiber, right? Because we've talked about how the effort it takes to spin up a new fiber factory, but you know, and then there are all sorts of other things that go into the supply chain to, you know, build out a network

Christopher Mitchell: Don't, don't create any wiggle room for Sean. We're talking fiber and fiber alone.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: So what I was gonna say is that I'm a a computer hardware guy and if the lessening of the GPU shortage is any indication the chip shortage might finally be coming to an end sometime, you know, in the second half of this year, which is great news for all the chip related stuff that you need to build a fiber network.

Christopher Mitchell: No, ahead, DeAnne.

DeAnne Cuellar: Well, I was gonna ask a question cause I, I can't remember if I, where I read this, but somewhere when I was researching some of these projects, I thought I read a state that had codified the deployment projects in a way that people could not purchase fiber or equipment that was not made in the United States.

20:04

Christopher Mitchell: Oh yeah, that's the big problem. No, no, no, that's so all of the infrastructure, I think it's all the IIJA stuff. I don't know if it's all the rescue plan stuff. I think it's specifically the IIJA. And this is something that in the past has been there, but they've issued waivers and, and there's a sense that they will not be issuing as many waivers. And so there there's some things that are made in the US that are harder to find and then there's some things that just aren't made in the US and it's gonna be curious to see how they react to that.

DeAnne Cuellar: But is that something that's coming from the cybersecurity community or is that like opposition to municipal broadband?

Christopher Mitchell: Well, it's not even municipal broadband, it's just no, I mean it's, there's a bunch of stuff. Like for instance, my understanding is, is that all the high, high fiber count fiber, like if you're looking for like 144 count fiber, you can get us made. But if you want like thousands of strands for for back haul, like we talk about with Travis and Travis Carter talks about in Minneapolis where he is like, you know, all a lot of South Minneapolis like rides on these one big 5,400 strand bundle. You can't find a maker of that in the US is my understanding. And I, I'm not an expert on that, but just a challenge, Sean.

Sean Gonsalves: So are you saying then, or DeAnne, are we collectively saying then that given the point that DeAnne is bringing up, that it's a great time to invest in Corning stock?

Christopher Mitchell: ? Yeah, I mean like there's multiple companies I think that, that make fiber in the us. I have no idea timing the market is a terrible idea for people like us. We should not try to do that is what I'm told. But it will be curious. See, and this is something Doug Dawson and I were going back on, on a connect this episode. Sorry, what was that show Chris connect this, connect this boy, I'm so outta practice. There you go. And and basically our sense was it's gonna be painful for a few years, but if we hold true to this, we think it will be better long term for us. And there's a lot of reasons for that and we could very well be wrong. It's not anything that I can claim any specialty to. So that's just how I roll on that in particular. So Ry made a comment in the last episode that suggested that he thought we'd be back in the office last year,

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Or did I say that? I don't remember that. Even a little bit.

Christopher Mitchell: You didn't, It was more like, it was like when we're back in the office kind of thing and, and I'm like, does anyone think that we're gonna be like for those of us that are in Minneapolis, are we gonna be in the office together? Most of, I mean, most of this call am and I are the only ones that are within like 10 miles of the Twin Cities. So but like, will the offices reopen? Will most people be working from

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Home? Yeah, I don't know. I'm 59 miles from the iss our office, and I was in there four times this year. Not including our staff retreat.

Christopher Mitchell: Will you be in there more than 10 times next year?

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Well, man, that's a good question. How many times are you gonna make me come in?

Christopher Mitchell: Depends on which side of the bed I am.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: , . I dunno the answer to that question. From the kind of like anecdotal stuff that I'm hearing from, you know, friends and family and people out in the world, you know, jobs there, there's, there's some truth to the fact that lots of the kind of like high school jobs are, are transferring to remote work only in addition to lots of other jobs. And so they're just not going back.

Christopher Mitchell: One of our one of our colleagues got Ill, and I was thinking, well, it's kinda nice that the rest of us can't catch it from that person because even if we all were to get ill, and we probably won't get ill at the same time, so our work will be able to continue more or less. So there's some benefits to being remote. Want to take a quick break here to just thank the listeners of the shows over the years. It's been wonderful and a lot of you a few of you provide really great feedback for us. I think others just tell me in person or whatever. And I know that you appreciate the show. All the people, the guests that come on over the course of the year. We do a number of different shows at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and I should plug them more regularly. But in addition to the, the Community Broadband Bits podcast, which is our flagship long running, approaching 500 episodes show, we also have ConnectThis is connectthisshow.com and is is, you know, just a whole fun entertaining in the Weeds kinda show. But then we have a variety of shows including Building Local Power, which is a flagship show of the entire institute for local self-reliance. Energy has local energy rules, which is just really great discussions about energy local folks that are doing great things to build some economic power and, and make sure people have opportunity and and the reliable electricity moving forward. We have composting for community which is, you know, I have to say that like is not what you think. And it is really interesting how this stuff touches on climate change. It touches on, on our food systems. It touches on the ability to create wealth in, in in, in neighborhoods that have been left behind. It's really interesting discussions. And we probably have another show or two that I'm, that I'm forgetting. If you check out ILSR.org, you'll find all of them along with really great reports. You know, if you've never heard of Stacy Mitchell dang, you don't even know who the cool Mitchell is at our organization because the work that they do in independent business to support local companies, it's out of this world. So just a quick note for folks that, that mostly are familiar with us for our broadband work. There's so much more and a lot of us in the same vein. You know, it's, it's, I would say we're politically weird. We are pro local and and we don't necessarily fit in anyone's buckets for politics but we're trying to do good work and empower local people to do things. So thanks for listening and and hope that you can support us financially. If not, tell people about the shows, spread the word and that sort of thing. And we'll get back to our predictions right now. And thank you so much. Sean, you wanna pick another one of yours out?

25:57

Sean Gonsalves: Yes. Starlink will be underwhelming in 2022, even though a handful of users and government officials will claim is the answer to solving rural broadband issues.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, I mean, okay, weak sauce .

Sean Gonsalves: Well, I didn't know that they all had to be bold predictions. Well,

Christopher Mitchell: Let me No, no, I'm just, I'm just teasing you for the sake of a cheap laugh

Sean Gonsalves: And all, and, and, and, and all of the Elon Musk cult is gonna come after you now for suggesting that something that he's doing isn't gonna be the, you know, salvation of humanity.

Christopher Mitchell: Elon Musk himself basically said, If we can't get the big fat rocket working, that's not what he said, but if we can't get the the big mama rocket working, then they are gonna be in big trouble. They can't deploy enough satellites and the whole model starts to crater. That whole presentation he gave, I thought, was really interesting because for people who aren't as savvy in business, the sense of like how chiming has to work in like the way that they have things all like domed out is I thought really interesting. And so I'm curious, and I think Ryan might be someone who's given this more thought than others, but is Starling gonna declare bankruptcy in the next year because they can't get the big rocket to

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Work No chance? I don't think yeah, I don't pretend to know the peculiarities of everything going on in Elon Musk's mind. I doubt even Elon Musk knows exactly what's going on in his brain from moment to moment. But the guy's got tons of money and he's certainly willing to eat costs for months or years at a time. And so I don't think there's any chance of SpaceX declaring bankruptcy in 2022 or 2023. They'll figure it out.

Christopher Mitchell: And I, I remain the the weird person who is rooting for them. I think what they're doing is fascinating. It's great engineering and I would not wanna be Elon's friend , but I am impressed at his engineering and business acumen. I believe we have another one from Emma.

Emma Gautier: Yeah, I'll come out of the shadows.

Christopher Mitchell: coming off the sidelines. I love it.

Emma Gautier: Yeah, I feel like all I talk about in these shows is the transparency rule, but I do have some related to this. So I talked about in the lab last podcast, I was on the consumer broadband label and also the data supposedly being collected this year based on that broadband label. Then a series of hearings that the FCC, I believe is gonna have to try and assess how effectively customers are kind of gathering the information they need and kind of pessimistically. I don't think the consumer broadband label is gonna be enforced to the extent that's needed to. I don't think much is gonna come out of the hearings and I would be pretty surprised if we saw any kind of substantial data set come out of the consumer broadband label that I don't think is gonna be enforced anyway, but, so it's kind of hard to have a data set come out of something that's not super well enforced.

Christopher Mitchell: Do you think it's because it's too hard to enforce or because nt I is too distracted by all kinds of things? Or the FCC's too distracted or, or

Emma Gautier: What? I mean, what I've seen providers talk about is that like it's pretty hard to nail down all the service details whether or not that's true. Mm. It's kind of hard to say, but I think that's something that a lot of providers use as leverage to kind of just not publish anything at all. And I think that's probably gonna be the argument this year. I think it's gonna work relatively well to allow them to not publish the information that consumers need. So I don't expect to see anything that like really wows me in terms of like accessibility or data. So, but I'm curious to hear if other people agree or disagree with that.

Sean Gonsalves: I agree, and I agree for shout out to Doug Dawson wrote an excellent blog today about regulatory capture. And that's the reason why I agree with

29:48

Christopher Mitchell: You. I wanna take the flip side. I think, I think we've hit the point where the FCC will feel, and it, I just, you have to remind me, Emma, the FCC's one in charge of this, right? Entirely.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: I believe so,

Christopher Mitchell: And I think that it will feel emboldened to get this one right now and feel that it's not gonna face as much backlash. And I think maybe industry will be focusing its guns elsewhere and not fight as effectively on it. So I'm gonna, I'm, I'm, I'm Team Pollyanna on this one. That's

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Based on all the years Chris, where the FCC is taking criticism and really done it about face and, and rectified the problem.

Christopher Mitchell: You know, part of this is, we, we didn't talk much about the FAA FCC standoff, but chair chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel did a heck of a job. I think Harold Feld, you know, has written about this. He's, he's had threads on Twitter sort of exploring it. And you know Jessica has, I think provided great leadership on that. And, you know, I'm frustrated with some of the, the FCC decision making on a number of other issues, RDOF in particular. But I, I think that there's a whole lot of things that the FCC is gonna get, right. And we might forget some of those as we're focusing on the things that they get wrong. So I'm hoping that they're gonna get this one right.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: You mentioned off there, and I'm curious if you think also this, this is one of my predictions for next year, that we're gonna see some more states doing what Iowa and South Dakota are doing in that they're taking a close look at what LTD is doing and the awards and and maybe holding their feet to the fire a little bit. And so we might see some more action there.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, this is where, I mean, I just, I don't know, like here I am again, super, super positive, but the fact that the federal government is giving money to the states and saying, You are responsible for doing this and we're not gonna hold your hand that much. And some of the states are turning around like New York just announced, and they're gonna push it out to localities and say, you know, we wanna make this money available so you can solve the problem the way you see fit. We saw that with the rescue plan. I, I hope that this is the beginning of a movement of power away from DC and going out to the local level to say, We need to solve these problems more locally. We need states to step up, take more responsibility in that sort of a thing. And so I'm, you, I'm hoping that that's what we're seeing is more local decision making. Now, some of the public utility commissions Minnesota, Minnesota are not taking things as seriously as Iowa, California, maybe South Dakota are, you know, there's some public service commissions or public service. They all have different names, PUCs, PSCs some of them, you know, are frankly unfazed when someone lies to them in the record and they won't even act on it, . So I hope that we see more seriousness with these local bodies and and so that's what I'm hoping for. So, Christine what do you have for us?

Christine Parker: So I've been thinking about the RDOF funds lately, and

Christopher Mitchell: Sorry, I said RDOF earlier and I totally didn't. You know, I feel like people who are listening to the show, this might be the first time they're listening to a show and they're like, What's an RDOF? Doesn't even know how to say Rudolph. It's the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which you know, is an auction that the FCC had done and kind of messed up and we're waiting to see where that ends up. So that's RDOF. Christine, go ahead.

Christine Parker: You sure? Okay.

Christopher Mitchell: Maybe .

33:10

Christine Parker: So Doug Dawson, you know, wrote about, has written a few times about RDOF, and there's been a lot of talk about, you know, whether the FCC will actually authorize some of these awards that maybe shouldn't have been approved initially. And so I guess my, my prediction was that it probably will, I'm kind of on the fence still about it as I learn more,

Christopher Mitchell: But you're just trying to get on Sean's good side in terms of making those kinds of predictions. I'm predicting that we're gonna send more mics out to people because we're gonna have better sound quality as we go through this year. And we're gonna have headsets or we're gonna have directional mics that Sean's got his in The lens in the, in the camera right there, just to make sure we have good audio. Any other thoughts on RDOF and on that process?

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: No, you said last year, Chris, that we, you know, it'll, it remains to be seen whether the FCC will try to, you know, rectify things, bylaw money back or make a show of doing it as I was rereading and rereviewing the show. And they haven't really done that yet to any large extent. And so I don't know why I would expect 2020

Christopher Mitchell: They've denied a bunch of, of potentially improper census blocks and things like that. I mean, I think they've been trying to clean it up. I, I think RDOF was a bigger mess and we appreciated that the, the Trump administration left you know, the new fcc and that's, it's hard to deal with. Deanne, do you have any questions for our crystal ball?

DeAnne Cuellar: Sure. So what I, so I pr so I think one of the reasons that, you know, people who are not talking so much about what cities, local cities are doing around connectivity is because those projects are tightly, you know, connected to K through 12 programs. And if so, if you, and you can't publicly come out against kids, right? Like, how would you,

Christopher Mitchell: So you're saying a lot of the bigger cities are doing things that are like just totally focused on the kids, and you don't wanna come out and say something that would allow me to then issue a press release that says so and so doesn't want the kids to have decent internet access for their schooling.

DeAnne Cuellar: Right. And I, you know, use, use my city as an example, right? Like San Antonio's got that this big, you know, program where we're gonna use municipal broadband to try to connect, you know, low income zip codes for students so that that, that they can continue to go to school, you know during the pandemic. After the pandemic. And I think the reason why people, you know, some people have been quiet is because, well, how do you say not to connect students? And I was wondering if, if people thought that it was gonna stay that way or would, you know, we find a new way to talk about it in the future.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, I think Sean found that in Tucson people are willing to come out and say that kids shouldn't get free internet access. But you're right, in most cities that doesn't happen.

Sean Gonsalves: Yes. Oh boy.

DeAnne Cuellar: And what did they say though, Sean? Like, what was, what was some of the like key points, like top line messages?

Sean Gonsalves: Oh, well, no, it was, I mean, the city's very much wanting to, at least some people forward thinking people in the city want to do that and created a CBRS network to do that. But, you know, the local provider there has has, has spent a lot of time and energy trying to convince the city council that that's a horrible idea

Christopher Mitchell: And unfair to give. I, I like to say widows and orphans, although it's not really limited to widows and orphans. But they shouldn't have free internet access. They shouldn't have to pay for it like everyone else. Yeah, so this gets said to one of my predictions, which I think is related and we can all react to it, but in terms of bigger cities, I think we're gonna see more ambitions, not as much as a, as a lot of folks would wanna see. But I think in, you know, you can say that I'm going too small in this, but I think we're gonna see three large cities making three small projects . Which is to say that three large cities are gonna do like really innovative, cool test projects that will like, probably touch like fewer than 2% of their, of their citizens or residents. But but it's gonna be municipally owned. It might be a partnership, but the city's gonna have skin in the game. They're gonna take it seriously. It's gonna be about digital inclusion and it's gonna be happening in major US cities. I think that's too easy, too low of a bar.

37:17

Sean Gonsalves: Yeah. Can you be a little bit more specific? I mean, Okay. Okay. How about this? Take New York City off of that.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay. A list of students. Okay. None of them are New York City, three other cities.

Sean Gonsalves: Okay. Okay. All right. I, I'm, I feel a little bit better.

Christopher Mitchell: I'll even take Baltimore off because I think we all know that I've been, you know, talking about Baltimore. Baltimore's been pretty open about it. I think it'll be three other cities, I think in the back of my head, I can think of two of them I think are likely. I think there's gonna be a big surprise that I'm not saying, like, I know it's something you don't know. I'm just like, something I haven't heard of is just gonna be like, it's gonna be like June and I'm gonna be like, Whoa, that's so cool.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Do you see that Chris, as the precursor to more momentum in those cities or as examples held up to some of the smaller cities doing stuff? Or...

Christopher Mitchell: It may depend on how the cities do. I mean, we're seeing a ton of investment in the big cities, and if some of them, you know engage in really bad practices, it could very well slow the whole movement. And if, and if other, if some of these are just runaway successes, then that may change it, but a lot is gonna be in the hands of these local decision makers as they're building out as to, as they have a lot of eyes on them. I think, I mean, it also depend on like, you know some of the Comcast and Charter Spectrum and some of the, the telephone companies. I mean, I, I still think that the only company that really has a low income program that moves the needle is Comcast. It's the only company that seems to really care. You know, other, some of the telephone companies have actually been raising the prices on their low income products to just try and take home more of those subsidies from what's now called the Affordable Connectivity Program. It's to pick a and if they were smart, they would probably just have two or three years of making these plans pretty good so that they could try to get some positive press and blunt the pressure. But I think they're run by people that that have very poor strategy. Of course, if you spend any time around me, you know that I think everybody has bad strategy . So, and speaking of that, one of the, my predictions is the same one I made six months ago and didn't come true, or maybe nine months ago when the Biden administration came out and said, Yes, we're gonna do municipal and cooperative approaches. I said, we were gonna see a big pushback and lots of new reports saying the municipal networks were failures in terrible things that did not happen. There was definitely pushback and there's been a heck of a lot of lobbying, but we have not seen the, the industry funded think tanks putting out new claims that municipal networks are failures. And that surprised me, but I think it's coming now with New York and and LA County talking about innovative stuff. I mean, a lot of these a lot of these bigger cities thinking about it and the program that's been announced by the, the governor of New York with that plan, I think that you know, there's, it would be crazy for at and t and the other companies not to be spending tens of millions of dollars to try to prevent competition. So I'm thinking that's gonna be a full on anti Muni blitz in 2022.

40:20

Sean Gonsalves: So, so they're gonna try to Burlington Vermont yet again?

Christopher Mitchell: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. Burlington you know utopia probably incorrectly. I mean, you know will be still, some people will be using that. We'll certainly see like Grotton, Connecticut they might go deep into old school for Ashland, Oregon. You know, some of these cities have made poor decisions and, and gotten in trouble. So, and I think, you know, we'll see that some network that is being built right now might hit hard times and have a couple of years where it looks ugly, where they have to get their affairs back in order. And that will be all over the Wall Street general editorial page and other, and elsewhere. But I do think we're gonna see an effort, a strong effort especially, I mean, NTIA making all these rules about how to spend the infrastructure dollars you know, there's gonna be a big effort to try to deal legitimize municipal partnerships and municipal ownership. Deanne.

DeAnne Cuellar: Yeah, I have a prediction about that though. I think two things are gonna happen. I think one, there's gonna be even more media coverage than there ever has been. It's, it's, it's, it's been increasing, but I think that, you know, just like there we're looking for broadband professionals, I think we're gonna see more and more people writing specifically about this. And I welcome it and I welcome the criticism that comes from that and the analysis.

Christopher Mitchell: Are we going to see, this is for DeAnne, Are we going to see a like high profile national interview with like talking head talking about broadband? Because for years I've been waiting for Susan Crawford to be like showing up on some national news program or something like that, or somebody with like, you know, a Gigi zone, whether she's you know, before she was in the FCC, but someone who has the gravitas and whatnot that national television media will care about broadband enough to interview a person like that. Will that happen in the next year?

DeAnne Cuellar: Oh, absolutely. I think that that's gonna happen. And whoever represents Susan or Joanne, and if they can't make that happen, like, call me, I'll help, but I di- I mean, we have to, I people like you people that are also on this podcast, like, we have to make sure that spokespeople are going to get out there with the most amount of visibility online and over the air to get these stories out. And that was the second point. Like, I think that not only are we gonna criticize and analyze how this work is gonna be done, I think two things that are gonna help that is harm stories, like the harm of not having high speed internet access in our communities. Not just the pandemic, but like more stories about harm and social determinants of health. We're gonna talk about harm and social determinants of health more than we ever have as it relates to digital inclusion in 2022,

Christopher Mitchell: Which is to say, if you don't have broadband, you're likely to have a variety of other challenges in your life. And while some people might say, Well, why do I care about that? If you're struggling in your life and you have more likely to get certain kinds of illnesses, the answer is because then we often have to pay a lot more in taxes to support people in that situation. And so this isn't just sort of like a, everyone should care for their neighbor kind of thing. It's also a public interest kind of thing of we would spend less in public services if we solve these these problems earlier upstream rye prediction.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: I guess my last prediction is that I think we're going to see the Washington public utility districts do a lot more interesting stuff over the next year. I think there's a lot of potential energy pent-up up there and whether it comes out in the form of partnerships with the private providers, like zip lead or they start doing you know residential fiber to the home service I think there's gonna be a lot happening there.

44:02

Christopher Mitchell: So you're saying that the dam might break in the Pacific Northwest

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Eyoo

Christopher Mitchell: , Let's hope not. . Yeah, I, I think I would definitely agree. I think we're gonna see really interesting things from the public utility districts. I think almost all of it will still be open access. And I think that's kind of a- of a slightly easier one. I think there's some state that we're gonna be talking about in a year that none of us would've projected. I mean, like, California's doing great stuff. New York is doing great stuff. I didn't think it was for ordained that, that both of those states would be doing something amazing. They both are Vermont off the charts amazing. You know, Maine just really classic, just like getting a lot of small things right over and over again. There's gonna be some state that we haven't talked about at all that's just gonna be doing amazing. I think I just can't, I dunno who that is.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Minnesota,

Christopher Mitchell: I do not think is gonna be Minnesota. Unfortunately, we do not have a champion. We have a governor and a governor's office that I think wishes broadband didn't have to do with it. I think the legislature lacks people that take it seriously. I don't have a lot of hope for Minnesota, unfortunately.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Well, for the sake of my charter bill down here in Mankato, which is probably due to go up pretty soon it would certainly be nice to see some movement.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. Sean, final predictions?

Sean Gonsalves: Yeah, I got three, one in the weeds. One, one giant bold prediction. When the deficit hawks come out for budget talks in at the federal level, some members of Congress will move to cut the affordable connectivity program because pointing to the fraud that's being committed with EBB. We'll see the return of the net neutrality debate at the FCC.

Christopher Mitchell: Pause there, pause there for, So a lot of us have been around, I mean, like, you know, know about net neutrality over the years. I think that this is gonna be less of a fight than people realize. I think. And I, and I'm willing to say that, like you could be laughing so hard at me next year. I think a lot of people are tired of it. I don't think the industry is gonna fight back as hard against it. I think it's gonna get done and it's not gonna be as much of a fight as some other things this year.

DeAnne Cuellar: Ditto. I agree. I think like we, we used to have to explain what it was and now people know what it is. And again, it has bipartisan support and I don't, I also, I don't agree with the prediction about the, the EBV or the, the affordable internet programs because I think it's really hard to take something away from communities once you create

Christopher Mitchell: It all. Right. That's gonna be, I'm really glad. So I want to thank DeAnne because like, at least we'll have one good thing to talk about next year. One of you is gonna be right . Sean, you had a final prediction.

Sean Gonsalves: 5G will still not be a real thing in 2022.

Christopher Mitchell: What do you mean a real thing? Like Verizon's about to turn on their, their their C band their I saw that. I think they'll be expanding. It's their 4G and 5G home internet to about 20 million homes soon. Of which I think they have 150,000 customers right now. Something like that. You're saying that's not real

Sean Gonsalves: Good for Verizon? That's, that's hat's off to their marketing department is incredible. I, I, I mean we need to, we need to hire those folks.

47:03

Christopher Mitchell: I am tempted to try it out. They screwed up the sidewalks around me and and they only rebuilt the ones on Grand Avenue, which is like a premier street in St. Paul here. And the ones that were off grand, they just basically left, destroyed. A little disappointed in my city for not following through on that. Maybe they will in the spring, but I might give it a try. I think I might sign up for it to see what it's like and see how it compares to my Comcast. But I am not, I do not have high expectations, so-

Sean Gonsalves: I think you should do that, for sure.

Christopher Mitchell: Final words. Anyone? Anyone have any lastings they wanna get out?

Sean Gonsalves: No. I think what I'll do next year this year I added the microphone. Hopefully my voice sounds a little bit better.

Christopher Mitchell: He sounds so good. Smooth.

Sean Gonsalves: Oh man. I can't wait for my mother to hear this. Next year, I think what I'm gonna do is add the when we do this show next year is get one of those eight ball things that you shake and the answer pops up in the little blue, blue window there. Mm-Hmm. .

Christopher Mitchell: I think I'm gonna get that. I'll look fuzzy. Try again later.

Sean Gonsalves: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yep. I think I'll do much better.

Christopher Mitchell: You should you should crack it open and put in some, like broadband related ones and we'll film it. . Thank you everyone. I'm hoping that a lot of this stuff provides interesting conversations for next year but I'm sure looking forward to, to working the next year on solving these problems with you all. So appreciate the time today and thank you all listeners for coming out. It's been great. Thank you.

Sean Gonsalves: Thank you so much, so much fun.

48:29

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available@muninetworks.org slash broadband. Bits. Email us at podcast@muninetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter, his handles at communitynets follow muni networks.org, stories on Twitter, the handles at muni networks. Subscribe to this another podcast from ILSR, including building local Power local energy rules, and the Composting for Community Podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter@ilsr.org. While you're there, please take a moment to donate your support in any amount. Keeps us going. Thank you to Arnie Hughesbe for the song, Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons. This was the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Thanks for listening.

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