Tag: "ntia"

Posted December 6, 2022 by Karl Bode

After years of efforts, the telecom industry and a range of independent broadband experts are making progress in a quest to make broadband grants tax exempt, a move industry players large and small say is necessary if the federal government wants the historic round of new federal broadband funding to benefit as many un- and under-served Americans as possible. 

During previous broadband grant programs, such as the (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) BTOP and (Broadband Initiatives Program) BIP grants in 2010, the Internal Revenue Service had the authority to unilaterally exempt some grants from taxation. 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) required that broadband grants be treated as taxable income. As a result, telecom industry watchers have been warning since March that upwards of 21 percent of new grant awards would need to be paid back to the United States government in the form of taxation, complicating project financing and scale. 

“Entities expecting to receive grant funds would need to budget for the tax bill, potentially requiring a reduction in the scope of their project,” Casey Lide of the law firm Keller & Heckman wrote in a post detailing the implications. “Entities might also consider structuring a project so that grant funds are received by tax-exempt entities.”

With more than $50 billion in Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding waiting in the wings, industry players large and small are working to reverse the changes imposed in 2017 before the tax man comes knocking. 

Enter the Broadband Grant Tax Treatment Act; legislation introduced last September by a bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators including Mark Warner (D-VA) Jerry...

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Posted October 5, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Matthew Douglas, Broadband Manager at the Hoopa Valley Public Utility District. At the start of the pandemic, HVPUD launched a wireless network initiative using $2 million in CARES Act funds to benefit Tribal members who had poor or no connectivity options. Matthew shared the lessons they learned during the process (including at one of the first Tribal Wireless Bootcamps), including navigating old-growth forest, navigating equipment and signal challenges in a particularly grueling topography, working with vendors with things don't go as planned, and managing sector costs. Recently, the effort won an NTIA grant to embark on a new fiber work and a wireless backhaul build to bring in significant new capacity to increase speeds and resiliency in the region.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The...

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Posted September 2, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced earlier this week that Louisiana will be the first state in the nation to receive federal grant planning funds to help states prepare for the deployment of high-speed Internet infrastructure and digital skills training under the Biden Administration’s “Internet for All” initiative.

Enabled by last year's passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the $2.9 million heading to the Pelican State is from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Digital Equity Act (DEA) – a development Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said was a signal that “the Internet for All initiative is on track and on schedule.”

Over the coming weeks, every state and territory will have funding in hand as they begin to build grant-making capacity, assess their unique needs, and engage with diverse stakeholders to make sure that no one is left behind. My thanks go to Governor Edwards and his team; Louisiana was among the first to sign onto Internet for All and to apply for funding, and I know they’re ready to get to work for the people of Louisiana.  

According to NTIA’s press announcement, $2 million of the planning funds being allocated to Louisiana come from the BEAD program and will help the state:

  • Identify unserved and underserved locations
  • Support outreach to diverse stakeholders across the state
  • Train employees administering the state’s broadband program
  • Assist with asset mapping to track broadband adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment activities
  • Survey unserved, underserved, and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to adoption 
  • Ramp up efforts to support local coordination at the local and regional levels 

The other $900,000 will come from the Digital Equity Act, also passed as part of IIJA. That money will fund Louisiana’s development of a statewide Digital Equity Plan; hire a Digital Equity/Inclusion Specialist to create and execute the state’s digital equity strategy; foster partnerships with a consortium of higher education...

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Posted August 17, 2022 by Karl Bode

One way or another, Grafton County, New Hampshire is lining up funding to build a massive new middle-mile network county officials hope will drive broadband competition—and more affordable fiber—into long underserved New Hampshire communities. 

Grafton was one of 230 U.S. communities that applied for a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program grant. Grafton’s specific application asked for $26.2 million to help fund the creation of the 353 mile broadband middle mile network they’re calling Grafton County Broadband Now.

Costly Challenge from National Incumbent Providers

Charter Communications filed costly challenges with the NTIA challenging the application, falsely claiming that the county’s proposal was “duplicative” and Charter already provided broadband to the region. Most of the claims were based on older, unreliable data provided to the FCC by Charter dramatically overstating broadband availability.

Grafton County surveys actually indicate the majority of county residents still can’t get access to the FCC’s base definition for broadband, 25 Megabits (Mbps) per second downstream, 3 Megabits per second upstream. Availability data across the county will likely look even worse should the FCC pass a new proposal to boost the definition of broadband to 100 Mbps.

Between Comcast and Charter, incumbent cable giants challenged 3,000 of the 4,000 census blocks covered in the NTIA application, even in areas that didn’t make much sense. Regional leaders previously told us the challenges were an attempt to bog long-needed local broadband improvement efforts down in bureaucracy.

Devil in the Details

Grafton’s grant application was rejected by the NTIA, though officials told the...

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Posted August 16, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Jon Chambers, industry veteran and partner at Conexon. The two begin by talking about the work electric cooperatives are doing in rural areas to convert subscribers from DSL connections reluctantly maintained by monopoly providers to member-owned fiber connections.

Then, they address what Jon calls the next frontier in broadband policy and funding with BEAD, initiated by the inherent shortcomings of the new Broadband Data Collection Fabric and which underscore the FCC's continued inability to act decisively to figure out where and which types of connections are available at the address level. This includes the fraught and complicated consequences when the federal government sets too low a defintion of broadband, the challenge process, the delay in funding until a complete list of Broadband Serviceable Locations is complete, the lack of transparency in the new data sets, and more.

This show is 47 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons...

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Posted August 9, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Greg Conte, Director of the Texas Broadband Development Office, and ILSR Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar. The state of Texas finds itself in a common position these days: last year it created a small office that, today, is suddenly faced with dispersing more than a billion dollars in new infrastructure funding through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.

Greg talks about the challenges of staffing up and addressing the lack of data about where broadband is and isn't as a starting point for future work. He shares the process of developing a minimum viable product for mapping as well as the additional goal of integrating digital equity goals and socioeconomic data into a mapping effort. 

Christopher, Greg, and DeAnne then dig into the implications of the new BEAD rules recently clarified by the NTIA, and how to square a mandate not to disciminate against community solutions with a Texas state law which places barriers in front of municipalities. He shares how HB5, passed by the Texas legislature last year, lets nonprofit and for-profit entities apply for funding, but privileges for-profit entities what applications are submitted for the same. The group talks about the balancing act of operating an unequal grant-making marketplace with a charge to efficiently and effectively address the digital divide with historic federal broadband funding.

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all...

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Posted June 14, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by senior staff on the broadband initiative to dig into recent topics, including Senior Reporter, Editor and Communications Team Lead Sean Gonsalves, Community Broadband Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar, and Senior Researcher and Research Team Lead Ry Marcattilio-McCracken.

The group talks about the value of overlapping networks and the co-option of the word "overbuilding" by monopoly lobbyists, the recent New York State funding program kickstarting municipal broadband efforts in a handful of communities, how states are responding (or not) to the NTIA process to get hundreds of millions in federal broadband infrastructure funding, and a new tool we built to help keep tabs on funds released from the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

This show is 36 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or ...

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Posted June 9, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

In March, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance held a livestream event on the range of challenges and tools available to communities to accomplish infrastructure, equity, and inclusion goals. We called it Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding. There, we discussed the new policies and funding options available that can be applied at the state and local levels to help communities improve their Internet services.

This time we will be focusing on organizing around broadband, community impact of the federal funding, and new initiatives in progress thanks to the grants communities are taking advantage of. 

Join us on Wednesday June 29th from 1:00pm-2:15pm ET as we discuss what's happening on the ground in these communities and what some of them are planning to do with the new federal broadband dollars. We are calling it Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2: Claiming Broadband For Your Community. Register here.

This event will feature:

  • Your favorite co-host:  Christopher Mitchell of ILSR and Pamela Rosales of NDIA
  • Videos from communities discussing what they are planning and doing with the funding
  • Discussing the “how” in organizing communities
  • Guest speakers discussing organizing strategies, and success stories.
  • The return of the crowd favorite Broadband Trivia!

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Event Links

Register for Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2 here to get the livestream links; on the day of the event, it will also be available on Twitter, via @netinlusion, @communitynets and @muninetworks

During the livestream, you can also join the trivia game (link to follow).

Note: There is no need to join the trivia game ahead...

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Posted June 3, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

The BEAD Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) released by NTIA is packed with guidance and regulations for how tens of billions in new funding with be spent. Reading the rules closely gives us a sense of who they might advantage, at least early on, and the line NTIA is trying to walk in giving the money the most bang for its buck while also heading off abuse. 

On a recent episode of the Connect This! Show, Christopher Mitchell, Travis Carter (USI Internet), Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber), and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) tackled what we know, what we don't, and what's likely to happen as states begin to file their letters of intent to participate in the program. Watch the shorts below to see them tackle Congressional intent, supply chain requirements, who we think will apply for these subgrants, and WISPs and overbuilding.

 

Watch the full episode here.

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, on find it on the Connect This! page.

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Posted April 6, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

With an unprecedented amount of federal funds to build broadband networks flowing into individual states, lawmakers in some states are doing the bidding of the big monopoly Internet Service Providers and potentially blowing a once-in-a-generation chance to invest in the locally-accountable infrastructure that offers the best chance to bridge the broadband gap for millions of families once and for all.  

Two weeks ago we wrote about the anti-competition broadband legislation making its way through the State Legislatures in Illinois and New York as state lawmakers across the nation establish high-speed Internet grant programs.

That trend looks like it’s continuing in Michigan where Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s GOP-dominated Legislature recently reached a deal to pass a nearly $5 billion spending bill.

While the “Building Michigan Together Plan” is being “celebrated” by the governor’s office as a way to “grow the economy, create jobs, and benefit families in every region of the state,” the main supplemental spending bill, known as Senate Bill 565 (SB 565), may sink some hope community broadband advocates have for leveraging the windfall of federal funds the Great Lakes State is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the forthcoming funds in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA).

Protecting Incumbents from Competition

The legislation allocates nearly $251 million for a statewide broadband grant program to be overseen by the newly created Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI), a subdivision of the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO). But, buried in Section 359 of the bill, paragraph (3), it stipulates that Michigan's “infrastructure grants must only be allocated...

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