The FCC has continued moving through the long-form applications for companies that were preliminary award winners in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Yesterday, it said it's ready to authorize bids for approximately 60 bidders on the "ready-to-authorize" list, but also announced another 13 bids are considered in default.
Among the bids that are considered ready to authorize is a project submitted by CBAN member Reedsburg Utility Commission in Wisconsin. As General Manager Brett Schuppner explained in a 2021 edition of CBAN's Lunch and Learn, Wisconsin's only municipal fiber utility has been expanding to unserved rural areas around Reedsburg, using funding programs such as RDOF to make those projects affordable.
The "ready to authorize" list also includes a number of rural electric cooperatives, independent communications companies as well as bigger companies such as Windstream, which had its bids in Pennsylvania approved. Another large winner benefitting from the FCC's action is Ziply, whose bids in several Pacific Northwest states will advance. That company is the owner of former Fronter properties.
The biggest name on the default bid list is LTD Broadband, who was one of the largest initial winners in the RDOF auction. The company has struggled to convince the FCC (and several states) that it has the resources and capacity to fulfill its obligations. The LTD bids on the most recent default list are in Oklahoma and Kansas.
The New Mexico State Senate has passed a bill that pumps $133 million in federal pandemic relief funds into broadband projects around the state. The broadband funding is part of a $478 million package that also funds highway projects and other priorities.
One interesting aspect of the New Mexico bill is the opennesss to "alternative broadband" technologies to deliver services. Because of its highly rural nature and rugged terrain, New Mexico leaders are supporting technologies besides fiber optics to deliver better services.
CLICK HERE to read the story at the website Channel3000.
Please join us for our end-of-the-year edition of CBAN's Lunch and Learn on December 16th at Noon Central. This prerecorded session will be streamed live to the CBAN YouTube and LinkedIn pages! All the information, links and a calendar link are below!
First there was the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, part of the COVID-19 response by the federal government, that offered low-income households a discount of $50 per month on their internet connection through participating providers. Now, the temporary EBB is being replaced by a permanent program, the Affordable Connectivity Program, with a monthly $30 subsidy. Both of these programs appear to address a long-standing challenge in America - how to get Americas most vulnerable households to connect.
The problem is, eligible Americans don't seem to be responding. Only 7 million households (out of an estimated 37 million eligible households) have not taken advantage of the subsidy. Why? Here are some possible reasons.
Internet providers are going to start signing up to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program soon. Let's hope that more provides decide it's worth a little extra work to connect their friends and neighbors in need of broadband but without the means to do so on their own. And let's hope that all providers make it a priority to conduct the customer outreach that is needed to increase awareness and connect more families.
Application window for $100 Million for broadband expansion open until March 17, 2022
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission is now seeking applications for $100 million in grants for broadband expansion in the Badger State. The funds come from bond proceeds authorized by the WIsconsin Building Commission.
During the last round of Wisconsin grant funds, the state awarded $100 million using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Many applicants walked away empty handed, however, as 242 applicants had requested more than $440 million.
LTD Broadband, based in Las Vegas, is suing the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) over a recent decision that they say is blocking them from rolling out a $23 million expansion of broadband service in Iowa.
The primary issue at hand is the IUB's denial of LTD's request to expand its status as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC). WIthout that designation, LTD cannot access more than $23 Million that it was orginally awarded under the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program.
There's a lot of details behind the IUB denial and the FCC's criticism of LTD for not meeting deadlines for various filings. CLICK HERE for an excellent article at the Iowa Capital Dispatch. Even before the FCC and IUB actions, many industry analysts were suspect that LTD had the experience and technical know-how to fulfill the obligations in the areas where they received RDOF funding committments. In their short-form application, LTD talked about offering gigabit services in the awarded areas, but it's never been clear whether they are planning to use fiber, fixed wireless, or some combination of both. And if fixed wireless is the solution, others questioned whether such a product could deliver promised speeds in questionable terrain.
The cities of Fort Pierce and Gainesville, Florida will be making investements in fiber optics to improve broadband access to their citizens.
Fort Pierce is launching a multi-phase effort to expand broadband capabilities in their community of 45,000. Fort Pierce Utilities Authority (FPUA) has hired Fujitsu Network Communications to plan, design, and deploy the network first in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and eventually city-wide. CLICK HERE for more on the Fort Pierce project.
In Gainesville, City Commissioners have approved a plan to use $9.6 million from the American Rescue Plan to invest in fiber, beginning in East Gainesville which was identified as in the greatest need for bettter broadband. CLICK HERE for more on the Gainesville story.
While the rest of the nation is seeing a steady growth in the number of community broadband networks, two towns in Massachusetts have decided to exit the business by selling their systems to the nation's largest broadband company, Comcast.
Braintree Electric Light Department (BELD) announced its sale on December 2nd and Russell Municipal Cable TV in Springfield, MA announced its deal with Comcast a few days earlier. Both systems are small and were faced with the expense of rebuilding their networks to keep up with growing broadband capacity needs.
Let's hope this isn't part of a larger trend of large corporations attempting to gobble up small independent broadband providers. Comcast, while having a large checkbook, has one of the worst reputations in the industry for customer service.
For more information about the two sales, CLICK HERE to read an article at Fierce Telecom.
Mark your calendars for the next edition of the IAMU Broadband Conference! IAMU has scheduled the event for April 5-6, 2023 at Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in Johnston. This will shift the annual event back to its traditional spring slot.
Click the link below to add it to your calendar. Details and registration will be posted in 2022.
The next edition of CBAN's Lunch and Learn webcasts will take place at Noon Central on Wednesday, December 1, 2021. We're excited to have Jim Baller, a partner at Keller and Heckman LLP in Washington as our guest.
Baller is a long-time advocate for local internet choice through public-private partnerships and municipal broadband networks. We will discuss a broad range of topics related to the role of nation policy in broadband deployment, including:
The View from Washington, D.C. will be streamed live on the CBAN YouTube page. CLICK HERE to access the page and the webcast. During the webcast, you are encouraged to make comments or ask questions using the comments section. We'll address those during the webcast.
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.