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Rural Broadband May Soon Get a Boost
- States received $40 billion to improve local ISP networks, demonstrating their critical role in expanding broadband access. Interesting to note, there was a lot of debate about what is an acceptable bandwidth speed. Democrats were campaigning for 1gbps as republicans lobbied for 25mbps. They compromised on 100Mbps/20Mbps, which is a vast upgrade of bandwidth for many underserved populations.
- Providers that accept government funds must offer a low-cost tier of services. Providers must also clearly define the bandwidth speeds and reliability they offer.
- $14 billion will be applied to create an “emergency broadband benefit” fund allowing a $30 subsidy towards broadband services for qualifying households. This item carried over from the December 2019 COVID-19 relief package. One of the key reasons customers do not have broadband is the price, this part of the package puts money directly into the consumers’ pockets to pay for the service.
- $2 billion will go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for rural broadband programs. Additionally, $2 billion will go to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which provides grants to Tribal nations for broadband projects. These investments will have a direct impact on the improvement of local economies.
- Grant monies for local government, nonprofits, and private sector entities to fund basic digital skills training and access to connected devices. It doesn’t matter how fast your Internet speed is if you don’t know how to use the technology connected to it.
- $1 billion will fund building out the "middle mile" of the broadband infrastructure—a critical component in connecting the last mile at the customer's home or business to the Internet backbone. The middle mile gets accomplished through a combination of many types of transmission services. These include dark fiber, interoffice transport, backhaul, carrier-neutral Internet exchange facilities, wired and private wireless infrastructure including microwave capacity, radio tower access, fiber links, and associated supporting equipment.
- The FCC must come up with a plan to reform the Universal Service Fund (USF). With congressional funding for improvements to our national broadband infrastructure, it's time to address the FCC's assumptions about what the USF requires. This program funds telecommunications services for rural hospitals, libraries, and schools. Each customer's telecom bill contributes a percentage to the universal service fund. The contribution percentage for the third quarter of 2021 is 31.8%, a large chunk of a telecom invoice. USF reform has huge benefits for all telecom customers.
Denise is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. Our consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.