Tag: "subsidy"

Posted August 31, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

On January 1st, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) with $14.2 billion in funding designed to help American households pay for the monthly cost of their Internet subscription. In May, we published a story about the fate of the program, based on a prediction model we built that was intended to visualize how long we might expect the $14.2 billion fund to last before needing new Congressional appropriations to sustain it. Back then, the data showed that the fund would run out some time in 2024.

We’re back today not only with a new and improved model (based both on more granular geographic data and fed by an additional 16 weeks of enrollment data), but a new dashboard that pulls together a host of information from the Universal Service Administrative Company on where and how the Affordable Connectivity Program money is being spent. 

A New Resource for Broadband Advocates, Local Policy Makers, and Elected Officials

Located at ACPdashboard.com, this new resource from ILSR includes information local broadband advocates, nonprofits, state legislators, and policy makers need to know about where enrollment efforts and expended funds stand today. It includes a breakdown by state for how enrollment numbers stand (as well as an estimate for the amount spent in each state so far), the current national eligible enrollment rate, information for 30 metropolitan areas, how much is being spent on service support versus devices, how many households are using the ACP for mobile versus wireline service, and the total left in the ACP fund. Our new prediction model shows that a little more than $410 million is leaving the bank account every month. 

  • We predict that if no new households enroll, the ACP fund will be exhausted sometime in March of 2025.
  • If 40 percent of eligible households enroll, the fund will be exhausted in January 2025.
  • If 45 percent of eligible households enroll, the fund will be exhausted in October 2024.
  • If 50 percent of eligible households enroll, the fund will be exhausted in August 2024.
  • Assuming as many eligible households enroll as is possible, the fund will be...
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Posted June 13, 2022 by Karl Bode

For more than a year and a half, the nation’s top telecommunications regulator has been stuck in limbo, thanks to a combination of federal dysfunction and industry lobbying. Now the nomination of popular reformer Gigi Sohn to the FCC is facing a full frontal assault by telecom monopolies dedicated to preventing the agency from standing up to monopoly power.

After an inexplicable nine-month delay, President Biden nominated consumer advocate Gigi Sohn to the FCC late last year. Sohn, Co-Founder and CEO of consumer group Public Knowledge and a former advisor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, is well versed in media and telecom policy, and broadly popular across both sides of the aisle

Yet since her belated nomination, Sohn has been met with a bevy of telecom, media-industry, and politically constructed allegations designed to derail her nomination, ranging from false claims that she’d harm rural America, manufactured allegations that she hates police, and false assertions that she’s looking to censor conservative voices in media

All of these efforts serve one function: to ensure the nation’s top telecommunications regulator remains mired in partisan gridlock and a 2-2 commissioner voting split. Without a clear voting majority, the agency can’t embrace reforms that are widely popular with the public, whether that’s restoring the FCC’s consumer protection authority, or restoring recently-discarded media consolidation rules.

It also prevents the restoration of net neutrality rules designed to protect consumers and competitors from the whims of telecom monopolies. A recent poll out of the University of Maryland indicates that a broad, bipartisan majority...

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Posted June 7, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

It’s been nine months since we launched our Big List of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Community Broadband Projects, tracking what communities are doing with the various pots of federal money intended to go towards solving local broadband challenges. Since then, we’ve recorded 250 community projects and 27 states which have announced significant broadband grant programs or disbursement for new infrastructure projects. Here we highlight some of the community projects we’re really excited about, including those that have decided to build their own networks and those building on existing projects, as well as those using ARPA dollars for open access networks, affordable connectivity, or Internet access for students. We also discuss some examples of solutions we believe are less permanent, forward-thinking, or likely to result in long-term success, including the distribution of hotspots and the allocation of funds to monopoly providers. 

What We’re Excited About: Community-Owned Networks and Open Access  

Fortunately, we’re seeing a number of communities approve plans to spend their Rescue Plan dollars on building their own municipal networks. In Lexington, Tennessee (population 8,000), the city is collaborating with Lexington Electric to bring broadband to the community. An ARPA grant is expected to cover about $20 million of the total $50 million price tag, and the city will issue bonds for the rest. If this grant is received, Henderson County (28,000) – where Lexington is located – has agreed to a 10 percent match (from $300,000 to $500,000). 

Maine has also allocated just over $15 million to eight broadband projects through the ConnectMaine Authority, $8.5 million of which comes from the American Rescue Plan. The funding will go to five municipal projects and three provider-led initiatives, and will serve approximately 6,000 residents “in some of the least-served areas of the state.”

Other communities are deploying fixed wireless solutions....

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Posted May 19, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

On Monday last week, the White House made much ado of an announcement that it had secured commitments from a collection of large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to adjust speed tiers and monthly costs for their existing plans so as to be able to offer a $30/month, minimum 100 megabit per second (Mbps) download offering for low-income households across the country. The goal was to create plans for households that qualify for the $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to get access to faster connections while ensuring no additional out-of-pocket costs. The recent White House announcement said that the 20 private-sector providers that have joined together cover 80 percent of households (skewed towards urban areas).

There’s no argument that the move will directly benefit hundreds of thousands of households by boosting their wireline connections and reducing their monthly expenses. And yet, it’s a treatment of the symptom rather than the disease, as the administration continues to refuse to address the larger structural dynamics that have made Internet access increasingly expensive in this country and perpetuated a broken marketplace via poor regulation and a lack of strong leadership.

This will become immediately apparent the moment that the Affordable Connectivity Program runs out of money, and those households suddenly face higher costs with no option for recourse. Our analysis shows that even if only a third of eligible households ultimately enroll (ten percent more households than are enrolled today), absent an additional allocation, the fund will be exhausted by the beginning of November 2024. But even under the best-case scenario, with the benefit reaching as many people as possible, current enrollment rates show that only 68 percent of eligible households will be able to sign up before the funds run out. In this model, the money will be exhausted just 18 months from now, on January 1st, 2024.

A Necessary Benefit, But There Are Enrollment Disparities

Today,...

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Posted December 14, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, December 16th at 5pm ET for Episode 28 of the Connect This! Show, where co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by returning guests Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) and Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) to catch up on the news of the week and check in on a number of issues.

The panel will discuss, among other things, the transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit to the Affordable Connectivity Program, restrictive access and exclusive wiring agreements in apartment buildings, and where the NTIA is on administering the more than $42 billion in new broadband infrastructure.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here or below on YouTube Live, via Facebook Live here, or follow Christopher on Twitter to watch there.

Posted September 28, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Update, 1/22/22: Common Sense Media has released an easy-to-read, comprehensive guide to federal broadband funding opportunities. Read it here.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress and the Biden Administration passed two federal stimulus relief packages with historic levels of funding for programs devoted to advancing digital equity – the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA). 

In early August, legislators in the U.S. Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package which continues many of the federal programs started by previous relief packages and includes $65 billion more for expanding high-speed Internet infrastructure and connectivity. Members of Congress returned from their summer break on September 20th and U.S. House Representatives are expected to vote on the infrastructure relief bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, on September 30th.

This guide consolidates the different funding opportunities made available through various relief packages to assist communities interested in accessing federal funds to expand broadband infrastructure and digital inclusion services. It updates ILSR’s Community Guide to Broadband Funding released in April of 2021, which describes programs established under ARPA and CAA in more detail, provides additional resources and answers FAQs.

Important upcoming deadlines are bolded throughout this guide. 

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Pending 

Though the legislation is pending in Congress, the version of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the U.S. Senate in August of 2021 includes $65 billion for expanding Internet access and digital inclusion initiatives. The Senate bill takes a more holistic approach to addressing the digital divide than previous relief packages, as it includes...

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Posted September 22, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

A week from today, the Schools, Health, and Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) is hosting a fireside chat on Tuesday, September 29th at 12-12:30p ET with SHLB Executive Director John Windhausen and Christopher Ali.

Ali is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, and recently released a new book through MIT press called Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity.

From the description:

Before the pandemic-driven surge of public investment in broadband networks, the federal government had subsidized rural broadband by approximately $6 billion a year. So why does the rural-urban digital divide persist? Why are we looking to the new infrastructure bill to solve a problem that should have been solved a decade ago? Author of "Farm Fresh Broadband" Dr. Christopher Ali argues that rural broadband policy is both broken and incomplete, proposing a new national broadband plan. Join SHLB Coalition Executive Director John Windhausen for a virtual fireside chat with Dr. Ali, to pick his brain on where the U.S. is going wrong and how to course correct rural broadband policy moving forward. And of course, they’ll discuss where community anchor institutions fit into it all.

ILSR spoke with Ali on Episode 134 of the Building Local Power podcast, which you can listen to here.

Register for the event here.

Posted September 1, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

With the first traunch of American Rescue Plan funds going out to counties and cities earlier this summer, many local leaders have begun to propose projects and seek input from citizens about how they should be used. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) represents an unprecedented amount of money flowing to local governments, but the consequences of operating for more than a year and a half under the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic are such that there seems to be so many things that need attention.

Access to universal, affordable, fast Internet access is among them, but the road from recognizing the need and implementing thoughtful policies is not an equally smooth one for all. Sometimes, a little inspiration is all it takes.

That's where our new resource comes in. Our Big List of American Rescue Plan Community Broadband Projects documents the ongoing list of city, county, and state projects which are under consideration, have been announced, or are under way. Arranged alphabetically by state and organized by whether they are under consideration or are planned, the below are those broadband expansion projects being pursued by cities and counties as they look to expand access via telephone and electric cooperatives, nonprofits, community-owned solutions, or private providers. 

This resource will be updated in the coming weeks and months, but if you have any corrections, additions, or updates, please email ry@ilsr.org

Read Our Big List of American Rescue Plan Community Broadband Projects here.

Posted August 25, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Cuyahoga County, Ohio (pop. 1.23 million), encompassing Cleveland and the surrounding area along the bottom edge of Lake Erie, has released a new Request for Proposals (RFP) as part of its ongoing effort to "expand affordable, high-speed broadband services to those lacking Internet access." Sustainable solutions are the focus of the RFP, with particular emphasis given to economically disadvantaged communities and approaches that can not only offer low-cost or free options but convince households to sign up for service.

Proposals are due September 8th at 11am ET.

The RFP is just the latest effort as part of the Office of Innovation and Performance's effort to closing the digital divide in the city and surrounding area. It notes that:

Cuyahoga County is one of the worst-connected communities in the U.S., with 19 percent of households in the County without any type of Internet service, including mobile data plans. About 32 percent of households in the County do not have a broadband connection at home, and 69 percent of these households have annual incomes below $35,000. 

The RFP and two subsequently released addenda (addendum 1 and addendum 2) indicate that a wide variety of options are being considered to address the connectivity challenges across the three different tiers of wireline coverage across the county (see map below. Red areas indicate that less than 60 percent of census tracts have basic broadband, peach areas indicate that 60-80 percent of census tracts have coverage, the yellow and grey hatched...

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Posted June 3, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

On Episode 15 of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by two representatives from the Internet Service Provider Cruzio: James Hackett (Director of Business Operations & Development) and Chris Frost (Director of Technology and Infrastructure). 

The topic of the day is Equal Access Santa Cruz, and how Cruzio is expanding its network with philanthropy to serve low-income households. They talk about the organizing and technical efforts that got it started, challenges along the way, and the success they've seen as a result of their collective hard work. 

The secret sauce of equal access programs? There is none. Just put together a coalition of groups that can continue to do what they already do best, the result of which is bringing affordable, fast Internet access to more families. School districts can continue to serve kids, community foundations can continue to raise money and build relationships, and the ISP can continue to construct and operate Internet connections and infrastructure.

One particular success of the project: bringing in a point-to-multipoint gigabit connection to 140 homes, two laundry rooms, and an office in one farm worker community, funded by the local agricultural firm, to provide free service for three years.

Read more about the project here.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

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

Watch here, or below.

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