Tag: "american rescue plan act"

Posted September 14, 2022 by Ann Treacy

On the southern border of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, Pharr Texas is the home of the largest commercial bridge from Mexico into the U.S. Now, the city is working on building an equally impressive virtual bridge to every home in Pharr with the construction of a municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.

The progression has been steady despite pandemic induced setbacks, as city leaders are determined to solve the connectivity challenges in Pharr by leveraging the assets the city already owns while taking advantage of the unprecedented amount of federal funds now available to help communities expand access to broadband. To that end, the city has created regional partnerships, completed a feasibility study, and launched a pilot project. Now, Pharr officials are moving ahead with the construction of a city-wide municipal network. 

Wake Up Call in Rio Grande Valley

Pharr has a population of almost 80,000 people of which 94 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino with over 30 percent of families living below the poverty line. Their public meetings are often bilingual. But, it was in 2015 that the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported that the Rio Grande Valley was on the wrong end of the digital divide. The report also highlighted the impact that had on the communities in the region:

The study involved focus groups with colonia residents. One theme that arose from the conversations with residents was the lack of access to the internet. The report found that the digital divide was a factor preventing residents from accessing regional labor market opportunities. Additionally, the report described the challenges colonia students face in school because of their inability to complete homework assignments due to lack of internet service and computers at home.

When earlier this week ILSR caught up with Jordana Barton Garcia, author of the report, she explained that “colonias” are informal neighborhoods where people live with no (or limited) infrastructure. Residents are sold lots without existing infrastructure, from water to broadband. 

When it comes to broadband, the city is served by AT&T, Spectrum, and T-...

Read more
Posted September 12, 2022 by Karl Bode

Yavapai County, Arizona is pushing forward with a $20 million plan to shore up broadband access across the region. While dramatically scaled back from a $55 million proposal pushed last year, county leaders are hopeful that the effort still drives significant upgrades across the rugged and predominantly rural desert county.  

Last fall, Yavapai County officials announced they would be committing $20 million of the county’s $45.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds toward its Broadband Final Mile Initiative, a project spearheaded by the Yavapai County Education Service Agency (YCESA) and designed to bring affordable broadband to every student in Arizona.

The county issued an RFP last October looking for broadband providers willing to use ARPA funding to push symmetrical 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) connections further into rural regions. The expansion was to lean heavily on a 2018 Yavapai County decision to spend $3.7 million on a fiber-optic middle mile network connecting 74 schools and libraries.

“The proposals have been reviewed and contracts have been awarded,” Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter told ILSR in an update. “Cox Communications has been awarded the contract for Black Canyon City and Congress, and Altice USA has been awarded the contract for Mayer, the Beaver Creek area, Cornville, and Paulden.”

Cox and Altice Win Grant Awards 

More specifically, Cox was awarded $3,757,763 to expand service to 2,923 locations in two towns, and Altice was awarded $12,614,582 to expand service to 15,348 locations in five municipalities. 

According to an Altice deployment schedule, homes should see service...

Read more
Posted September 6, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by two representatives from Pharr, Texas (pop. 79,000), which has embarked on a citywide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network build that is seeing strong local support and fast progress in recent months. Jose Pena is the IT Director for the city, and and Guillermo Aguilar works as a Partner at Brownstone Consultants, which is serving as a project manager for the network build. Jose and Guillerma talk with Christopher about the impetus for TeamPharr, the municipal effort which formally kicked off in 2017 with a feasibility study.

Jose and Guillermo share how the city moved to a fixed wireless pilot project on the southern part of town a few years ago before extending the network to a collection of city parks and then making the commitment to a full citywide buildout in 2020. They detail their early work in the state, which places some barriers in front of communities looking to take their telecommunications future into their own hands, and the help they got from Mont Belvieu (which also runs its own network). Jose and Guillermo share the phenominally fast progress the team has made, from finishing the design phase in September of last year, to connecting the first household in January 2022, to passing 70 percent of premisestoday.They also talk about their work to offer subscribers low pricing tiers ($25 and $50/month for symmetrical 500 Mbps and gigabit service, respectively) and their efforts to help households sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Check out the videos at the bottom of this story for more about why Pharr undertook the project and the progress the city has made so far.

This show is 40 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...

Read more
Posted September 6, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Welcome to another installment of In Our View, where from time to time, we use this space to share our thoughts on recent events playing out across the digital landscape and take the opportunity to draw attention to important but neglected broadband-related issues.

As its ongoing work to revamp the agency’s notoriously inaccurate broadband coverage maps continues, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced last week the opening of a window for states, local and Tribal governments, service providers, and other entities to challenge the service data submitted by providers over the summer.

At the end of June, as FCC chairwoman Jessica Ronsenworcel noted, the FCC “opened the first ever window to collect information from broadband providers in every state and territory about precisely where they provide broadband services.” 

The key word here is “precisely” because the truth is: no one really knows precisely where broadband is, or is not, available. And with tens of billions of dollars in federal funding being spent to deploy high-speed Internet infrastructure, accurate mapping data is essential for targeting where those funds would be best allocated in each state and U.S. territory.

Historically, the FCC relied on self-reported submissions of Internet service providers (ISPs) for information on which locations they serve and what speeds are available at those addresses. However, in practice, that meant the FCC maps could declare an entire census block to be “served” by a broadband provider if that provider claimed the ability to serve just one home in the entire block; thereby overcounting how many households have access to broadband.

The Broadband DATA Act was passed to fix that glaring problem by requiring the FCC to use a more refined methodology to verify if the data submitted by ISPs is accurate.

To that end, the FCC will now rely on something called the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (BSLF), which will combine a...

Read more
Posted August 26, 2022 by Ann Treacy

Brownsville recently took a Texas-sized step toward the creation of better broadband options for its residents and businesses, as city commissioners voted in late July to enter into a public-private partnership to build a city wide fiber network known as BTX Fiber

As reported by The Brownsville Herald:

At a Wednesday morning ceremony in city commission chambers, Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez and Brownsville Public Utilities Board CEO and General Manager John Bruciak signed an agreement with Brian Snider, CEO of Lit Communities, that will allow the fiber infrastructure to be completely built out.

The city commission at its July 19 regular meeting approved the public-private partnership between the city, LIT Texas LLC and its subsidiary BTX Fiber, “for the construction, operations and maintenance of city-wide broadband infrastructure, including but not limited to incorporation and approval of a Right of Way and Encroachment Agreement; Engineering, Procurement and Construction Contract; and Middle Mile Connection Agreement and Grant of Indefeasible Rights of Use Agreement.

Wake up call for Brownsville

From the outside it may seem like an overnight success. But, like most stories, the planning started years ago.

Brownsville is located on the Gulf Coast of South Texas and has a population of more than 186,000 people. It also has the distinction of being on the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s “Worst Connected Cities List” of 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019, even though the city is served by  AT&T, Spectrum, and T-Mobile Home Internet.

When Trey Mendez was elected Mayor of Brownsville in 2019, he knew that...

Read more
Posted August 23, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Although disappointing for advocates of local Internet choice weary of monopoly providers working to stifle competition, what we are seeing coming out of Montana’s state broadband grant program, Connect MT, shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Last week we learned that the state’s Department of Administration had recommended that nearly half of the Connect MT funding – $126 million – be awarded to Charter Communications, which has been aggressively lobbying Montana legislators (and funding campaigns in opposition to community broadband proposals in other states).

It did not go unnoticed by Montana Free Press deputy editor Eric Dietrich who recently reported that the recommended award to Charter “has plowed into rocky ground as (the state) considers a list of recommended projects this month.”

‘Not Perfect by Any Means’

The story raises questions about the state’s ranking system for proposed projects and notes that the lion’s share of grant money being recommended for Charter “has drawn the ire of smaller, Montana-based companies that want more support for their own networks.”

In hearings this month, Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles, the committee’s vice-chair, described the $258 million program as a learning experience for the state government, which hasn’t previously managed a large broadband program. The scoring system the department used to rank applications, she said at an Aug. 2 meeting, ‘is not perfect by any means.’

‘This is a first-in-kind program for the state of Montana, so there’s definitely some lessons learned,’ Giles said.

Giles and committee chair Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, have also said the state will have the chance to fine-tune its awards process and fund additional projects as it works through additional federal broadband money it expects to receive through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

After passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, the Republican-controlled Montana Legislature established advisory committees to make recommendations to the governor about how the state’s Rescue Plan funds should be spent on infrastructure, including broadband.

...

Read more
Posted August 11, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Three years ago, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) ranked Cleveland as the worst-connected city in the United States (with more than 100,000 households).

City leaders are now using its American Rescue Plan funds to make that dishonorable distinction a thing of the past with a plan to invest $20 million to get the “Comeback City’s” digital future rockin’ n rollin’.

Although the city (pop. 383,000), home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is currently underserved by AT&T, Charter Spectrum, and T-Mobile, earlier this summer the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) that “seeks one or more partners” to help bridge Cleveland’s digital divide following a two-phased approach that first addresses the city’s immediate needs before tackling its longer-term strategic goals.

More specifically, the RFP details “the Phase I goals: ensuring that individuals who do not engage online can become full Internet users as quickly as possible, relying on digital adoption and affordable access strategies. (While) the Phase II goals (envision) —ubiquitous fiber optic connections and Smart City deployments.”

Or, as Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb told Cleveland.com:

The first phase is on making sure on the short-term basis we connect as many families as we can to high-speed broadband, and the second phase will consist of making sure we lay fiber all across the city so we can be competitive, not just five years from now, but 20, 30 years from now, as a city and as a region.

Technically, the RFP that was issued is to fully implement the first phase of the city’s vision and set the table for the second phase. Work beyond the $20 million the city has set aside would require the issuance of a second RFP.

Phase 1: Adoption and Affordability

Acutely aware of...

Read more
Posted August 5, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Spurred to action by inadequate high-speed Internet service as the pandemic besieged their communities, local officials and citizen volunteers in five rural Maine towns formed the Southwestern Waldo County Broadband Coalition (SWCBC) in an effort to bring ubiquitous and affordable broadband to its portion of Waldo County.

Two years later, the SWCBC is close to securing a major victory for local Internet choice in the face of a well-funded opposition campaign sweeping the Pine Tree State as the Big Telecom lobby and its allies try to undermine the very idea of publicly-owned, locally-controlled broadband networks in Maine and elsewhere.

The five SWCBC towns clustered about 30 miles east of Augusta – home to approximately 5,600 Mainers – are looking to create what is known as a Broadband Utility District (BUD). Four of those towns (Freedom, Liberty, Palermo, and Searsmont) recently voted in favor of establishing a BUD. Montville will be the last of the five towns to vote on whether to BUDdy up with the neighboring municipalities via an Interlocal Agreement (ILA). That vote is slated for August 23.

Similar to Communication Union Districts (CUDs) that the neighboring state of Vermont is relying on to deliver reliable and affordable broadband to its residents and businesses, Maine state law “allows towns to band together to form a community-owned organization, controlled by the municipality members but a legally separate organization - a regional non-profit utility. The BUD is allowed to incur debt that is separate from and not guaranteed by the municipalities.”

...

Read more
Posted August 3, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

About ten years ago, the city of Lincoln, Nebraska (pop. 285,000) began construction on a publicly owned conduit system it would eventually lease to Internet Service Provider (ISP) ALLO Communications to enable better Internet service options to residents. That project entered its final phase in the last two years, but local officials aren’t content to stop there.

Last fall, Lancaster County (pop. 316,000), of which Lincoln is the county seat, embarked on a new conduit system to multiply its success into the future. The expansion will build upon Lincoln’s network to initiate construction into the rural parts of the county and facilitate new connectivity options to three new cities, ten villages, two census-designated places, and nine unincorporated communities.

Not Content to Sit Still

Lancaster County is situated in the southeastern corner of the state, and the second-most populous one in Nebraska.

Fixed broadband coverage, seen in the FCC Form 477 map below, shows the reality locals are contending with; good coverage in the city proper, but few options once you move into the countryside.

Lincoln itself would be in much worse shape if not for the work of forward-thinking locals who began working on improving connectivity options almost ten years ago. The city of Lincoln and Lancaster County entered into an interlocal agreement back in 2014 as the basis for the creation of a joint Information Services Division designed to “offer cost effective solutions to exploit efficiencies and effectiveness throughout all agencies,” and spur future broadband investment. The effort has been successful (see table below) fostering better average connection rates than the U.S. as a whole, though just over 10 percent of households either have no Internet access or don’t pay for a subscription.

Building Upon the Past

That Interlocal Agreement was revised at the onset...

Read more
Posted August 1, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

City leaders in Gary, Indiana hope to have people singing a song first sung by the city’s most famous family. But instead of relying on The Jackson 5 to lead a reprisal of “Goin’ Back to Indiana,” the sheet music this time is a plan to “deploy ubiquitous, accessible and affordable high-speed broadband to every home and business within the City.”

Two weeks ago, the city issued a Request for Qualification as it seeks Internet service provider(s) for the city to partner with “to build, operate (and) maintain a government middle mile fiber ring leveraging the City’s ARPA funds and working together to obtain additional State funding to ensure the partner deploys commercial and residential retail broadband.” Bids are due by August 12.

While the city wants to build a fiber intergovernmental network to support the city’s government, the plan calls for a city-wide network “that raises all tides on the residential side. That is essential to Gary’s economic future,” Gary’s Chief Innovation Officer Lloyd Keith explained last week during an information session for potential partners.

The genesis of the proposed project, Keith explained, “came from us looking at a study during the pandemic and the issues we were having with students. We are basically inadequate as far as broadband access is concerned in comparison to other communities. So we looked at how we can go about resolving that situation.”

Despite the presence of AT&T and Comcast, Keith described his city of 67,000 just 30 miles southeast of Chicago as still being “underserved” as was made apparent when the city found numerous census tracts with a staggering number of residents who do not have home broadband service.

That’s why, Keith said, now is the time for Gary to leverage its Rescue Plan funds and the federal BEAD program to finance construction of a network that will cover the entire city.

...

Read more

Pages

Subscribe to american rescue plan act