Ask Me Anything! with Jim Stritzinger, Director of the South Carolina Broadband Office

Ask Me Anything! with Jim Stritzinger, Director of the South Carolina Broadband Office Banner Image

May 19, 2023


About Our Distinguished Guest

Jim joined the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff as a broadband coordinator back in 2021. Almost two years ago, he was appointed the director of the South Carolina Broadband Office, where he serves today. 

Jim was formerly the president and CEO of Revolution D, Inc., a consulting firm that specializing in geospatial artificial intelligence. Jim founded the firm in 2004, and worked there for 17 years.

Jim holds a BS in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University and a Master of Health Information Technology from the University of South Carolina.

Event Transcript

Drew Clark: And we're live. Good afternoon, and just in the nick of time, we have our guest, Jim Stritzinger. Welcome. 

Jim Stritzinger: How you doing, Drew? Sorry for the technical challenges, but I'm here with you. 

Drew Clark: No, no. You were giving all of us just a little bit of a heart, a heart attack, but, but, uh, that is, that is not, uh, unusual.

Drew Clark: Uh, it is so exciting to have you on the program. It was good to talk with you a little bit earlier this week and, uh, get a little sense for some of the exciting things that, um, South Carolina has been doing. And indeed, some of the things that you've been doing we're, we're in the broadband community discussing, uh, or in an ask me anything with, uh, Jim Stritzinger.

Drew Clark: Have I got that right, Jim? I, I, you know, I'm, I'm always a little [00:01:00] uncertain on how you say that last name. 

Jim Stritzinger: Well, you know, as a, as a father of three daughters, hey, you works fine with me too. Yeah, you got a perfect, 

Drew Clark: yep. Well, Jim, as the executive director of the South Carolina Broadband Office, we are very excited to have you on the show.

Drew Clark: We've had, uh, other, many other state broadband leaders from states, including Mississippi. Louisiana, uh, Indiana, um, uh, Maine, uh, and I, I'm, I'm sure I've forgotten some, Virginia. We, we'll, we'll have many more. And, and so you're, you're part of a, a now a tradition of many people being able to speak in, in detail, right?

Drew Clark: I mean, we wanna explain our terms, right? But we also really want to, uh, dig in to some of the issues that you're facing as a state broadband leader in South Carolina, and, and particularly you because of your really, really fascinating background, [00:02:00] which I want to dive in soon. But before, before I do that, Jim, uh, just, uh, welcome and, and, and, uh, tell us just a little bit about, about yourself and, uh, uh, how, how you, uh, got into this, uh, this field, uh, in general.

Jim Stritzinger: Well, it's, it's been an interesting, um, a really interesting twist and set of turns in my career that have led me to this, um, I, I saw in your notes that you would, you asked, you know, what would a geek wanna do with a job like this? So, um, you know, I've, I'm honestly, this, this particular job is the, um, is the role of my lifetime.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, and it's the greatest honor of my lifetime to get to do this on behalf of the citizens of South Carolina. And, um, you know, I've, you know, through college, um, you know, undergrad electrical engineer, that's way back in the eighties. I'm getting to be kind of old now, but, um, electrical engineering [00:03:00] background for sure.

Jim Stritzinger: And then I've, um, have a master's degree. I took 30 years off when got a master's in Health. It, so I'm a very, um, you know, I affectionately, uh, Embrace the term nerd, you know? Yeah. Yeah. I love, I love doing a lot of data and, um, you know, my entree into the broadband world started in the summer of 2014. You and I discussed this earlier in the week, but, um, I was running a nonprofit program called Connect South Carolina.

Jim Stritzinger: I was the executive director of that. So really a philanthropic, um, adventure into the world of broadband. Um, but of course back then we didn't have any, Huge federal and state investment to really make anything happen. So as an engineer, I got frustrated studying all the problems, and then never having any financial fire power to really make things happen.

Jim Stritzinger: So [00:04:00] that's why I'm so excited, you know, I know what the issues are. We've done a lot of research on it. We've done a lot of mapping, and I'll, we'll talk more about that. But it's now, you know, as an engineer, there's nothing greater in your life than being able to actually solve the problems at hand. And we're, we're able to do that now.

Drew Clark: Well, let's, let's go back even, even further, right? So I want to go back to Clearview Software and tell us a little bit about what that is, was, does, and, and that's, that's distinguished from, uh, from, uh, revolution D. Could, could you speak to the, the, the, the prior things that you've done in this, in this realm of these software engineering realms to speak.

Jim Stritzinger: Yeah. Well, um, Shirley, well, I grew up in, um, an entrepreneurial family. My, my dad had a business when I graduated from high school. Um, my dad had started a computer store and, um, so. [00:05:00] My whole life I've grown up an entrepreneurial family. So, um, in early nineties, I started a software company called Clearview Software.

Jim Stritzinger: And, um, we did, my company's specialty was doing, um, accounting software applications and interfaces to a product called Solomon Software. So, um, you know, you know, doing database stuff, doing integration work with accounting systems was the name of the game. And, um, had the good fortune in late nineties that, um, my little baby company got acquired and, um, by a much larger company.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, and. We, uh, we grew and I, I stayed with that. And then couple of, couple of acquisitions later, um, my little baby company became part of Microsoft in the early part of, uh, 2001. Mm-hmm. So, 

Drew Clark: and, and the, the name, [00:06:00] uh, revolution D uh, comes, comes from 

Jim Stritzinger: what, Jim? Well, you know, as, as I moved on from, from Clearview and, um, I, after, after my company got acquired, I got my chance to move to South Carolina for the first time and, um, was actually in the Hilton Head area and, um, you know, really just wanted to get something started, see if I could figure it out a way to get some things going.

Jim Stritzinger: And, um, created Revolution D way back in actually calendar year 2002. And I've just done a variety of things, um, consulting projects along the way. But, um, I guess what's bringing us a little bit closer to home, um, revolution D um, wound up getting really a new lease on life, you know, as entrepreneurs do you kind of pivot from time to time.

Jim Stritzinger: And in, in January of [00:07:00] 2019, I really decided to focus in on broadband and really particularly the mapping aspects and to see if I could come up with a new, a new invention that might change the way people look at broadband mapping. And hopefully that would re reveal some really interesting things for South Carolina.

Jim Stritzinger: Oh, very 

Drew Clark: cool. No, that does, that does get us up to speed. So, so let me take kind of three data, data points in time to 20 14, 20 19, and 2021. Okay. And so starting with, with 2014, you, you just mentioned that data a little bit earlier. Right? And, and, uh, just for, for our readers, for our listeners, watchers, Everyone should be aware that there was a prior state broadband initiative that went on from 2009, 2010, up until 2014, 15.

Drew Clark: And, and in some ways this was, was birthed by a lot of initiative by, by many entities, including Connected Nation, including broadband census, the entity I founded way back, way back when [00:08:00] we were focused on trying to get that census-based, uh, census block-based approach to data. Right. And Connected Nation actually did one of their first maps, if you will, in South Carolina.

Drew Clark: As I, as I know you've, you're familiar with. So, so let's talk pre 2014. I mean, obviously you've had to discover this after that time looking back, but what went on and in particular, what went on in South Carolina up until that 

Jim Stritzinger: time? Sure. And, and of course, um, as you're well aware, Drew, um, the state broadband initiative was NT i's first.

Jim Stritzinger: Real effort to build, um, broadband maps in the United States and, um, no state really had one. So in South Carolina there was an Ned State called Connect South Carolina, and the job was to build the first ever iteration of the South Carolina broadband map. So when you're starting from nothing, you had to reach out to the internet [00:09:00] providers.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, and to be clear, I joined the effort late. Yeah. You know, really with the last nine months of the program. But, you know, the folks ahead of me, um, did a lot of the networking with the internet service providers, um, cobbled together the first, um, efforts around mapping. And of course, maps were not really GIS based.

Jim Stritzinger: In some cases you were getting paper maps and having to assimilate that and do some digi digitization. Mm-hmm. And, um, everybody did it a little bit different back then. So the effort to try to develop a standardized map was, was really, really hard in, in 2009. And, um, so I'm grateful for all those that came before me and, and worked hard on that.

Jim Stritzinger: And of course, that was part of Connected Nation. Um, and of course that was the goal, as you remember, to get it in a, in a [00:10:00] place, a successful place, and then turn it over to the fcc. Mm-hmm. And then that's what happened in the early part of 2014. So in, in January, 2014, all of the turnover occurred and the FCC picked up.

Jim Stritzinger: You know, picked up the baton from all 50 states and, and carried that forward in the form of the FCC form 4 77 process that we're, you know, all intimately familiar with Now. So,

Drew Clark: so you, uh, again, I hope, I hope we got our dates right in the little bio we, we have here, but, but we, we had noted that, that you, uh, began in 2014, uh, to, um, you know, many years after the successful software company was sold.

Drew Clark: You, you joined Connect South Carolina in 2014. Is that, is that right? And you were, and, and what, what happened in tw in be between, like, so in other words, we, we've turned the page on the state broadband initiative program in 2014. South Carolina has to do things differently. What, what [00:11:00] was being done from 14 to 19?

Drew Clark: And what were you doing as part of that process? 

Jim Stritzinger: So, um, well the, the federal funding ran out. Um, but when you're, you're kind of. You wanna keep the, the torch alive, keep the flames burning and do what you can. So I was able to cobble together a couple of grants, um, just kind of scratching and clawing, scratching and clawing.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, we got a grant from US Department of Agriculture to study a small region of South Carolina. Right. Um, doing planning, um, you know, really county specific projects back then, cuz we didn't have enough money to, to stand up a full statewide program. But, um, it was really useful for me cuz I kept meeting communities.

Jim Stritzinger: I kept meeting, um, you know, uh, gosh, chamber of Commerce directors, hospital leaders, um, you [00:12:00] know, very important people in the communities, uh, school superintendents, but at a county level. So just kept going. Uh, and candidly was polishing my own skills. Um, to, to learn more about the mapping, to dig into the raw data, to learn what the issues were.

Jim Stritzinger: But it's not just on the infrastructure side, of course, it's on the adoption side. Yeah. You know, hearing the voices community, the frustrations they've got, um, their challenges using internet, their fears of cybersecurity, things like that. So a lot of different efforts along the way, but it was really hard, um, when you're not really sure where your next paycheck comes from to, to really muster the forces required to, um, you know, doing a statewide effort was near impossible back then.

Jim Stritzinger: Right. Cause you just didn't have enough to even pay your own payment. Yeah. And your own. Absolutely. 

Drew Clark: Well, now what about 2019? Was there [00:13:00] an evolution or a slight change, uh, in, in your, your, your, uh, platform at that time? 

Jim Stritzinger: Well, yeah. What was, what was interesting is, um, I, you know, as. Connect, South Carolina was winding down.

Jim Stritzinger: It gave me some personal time to, uh, go back and work on my master's degree. I, I mentioned that I, um, took 30 years off and then went back to school. I, I was really, you know, working at the university part-time and doing my master's degree. So calendar year 2017 and, um, 2018, um, I actually graduated with my master's in May of 2018 to kind of orient you.

Jim Stritzinger: And, um, I wrote a grant for the university, um, which we won. And it was really to build the, uh, IBM center at the University of South Carolina. So that was my first real exposure to the world of [00:14:00] Watson. Mm-hmm. And artificial and things like that, which was wonderful. Um, but that was short-lived at the university.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, end of 2018, I really needed to get back to my entrepreneurial roots. And, um, what we did is, uh, well, really the big idea was to see if I could actually build an artificial intelligence. Model that could help, um, that could help unlock the secrets and the mysteries of broadband. 

Drew Clark: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and, and it's this again, for, for, for our readers, listeners, watchers, you know, just to kind of orient people.

Drew Clark: You, you say it at, well, Jim, that 2014 was this kind of cutoff black box cutoff, if you will. And, you know, these state broadband initiatives that have been out there, you know, doing a lot of mapping, doing a lot of verification, doing a lot of engagement. You know, they kind of went dark for the most part, about, about half continued in some form, but most, most went, went out.[00:15:00] 

Drew Clark: And, um, what, what happened then is that there, there was, um, this, this period as you've discussed and where South Carolina was doing something some other states were doing interesting. And there's this, this long period of like, Gradually worsening data over at the fcc. Right. And, and, and the other thing happening is, like you said, you know, AI tools are coming online, you know, and so, so 2019, there's a lot more interest

Drew Clark: The, the calls to fix the maps are getting louder and louder. You know, comedians are making jokes about broadband maps and, and the broadband data act is, is passed in, you know, the lead up 2019 passed in 2020. And, and basically that, that act is basically giving a lot more teeth to it. And, and of course there's other efforts going on, some of which involve ai, uh, to, to really use better tools in order to.

Drew Clark: Uh, you know, tap into some of the challenges that the 1.0 version of broadband mapping. Were, were, were, were, were, were happening. Right. And, and so is there anything that you learned from [00:16:00] that kind of AI experience, uh, that, that, that kind of re reinvigorated things as you, you started as, as we, we reported here that you started working with, uh, Jim, Jim Clyburn and, and, uh, tell us a little bit about what, uh, he and he and you all did at the rural broadband task 

Jim Stritzinger: force.

Jim Stritzinger: Well, it was, it was really fun, Drew to really, honestly have some personal time to just experiment, explore. Um, but the, the fundamental hypothesis is holy smokes, you know, everybody's laughing at the FCC data. There's gotta be a better way to do it. And, um, you know, my, my personal hypothesis is if you just look at the FCC data by itself, you have a failed outcome.

Jim Stritzinger: I, you know, the whole idea of mashing up. FCC data and combining it with, um, you know, the ulu B test data. Right. You know, I, I thought there's really some magic there, but I, you know, [00:17:00] beginning of 2019, candidly, I had no idea how to do it. Um, but I had, um, you know, I had the gift of, uh, of being home alone, peace and quiet with a, uh, a server in my basement and fiber coming into my house.

Jim Stritzinger: I had, you know, basically unlimited internet capability. Um, again, being a nerd, I have a 42 inch plotter in my basement. Um, so I had a self-contained. Um, experimental center in my house and I've got 20 years of database experience. You know, I've worked with Microsoft SQL Server for tons of time and I couldn't afford a course as a startup to purchase Watson or any of the AI tools.

Jim Stritzinger: So my poor man's equivalent was writing some sequel code mm-hmm. To try, try to achieve the same thing. But also, you know, funny, I had never seen [00:18:00] Esri Arc, g i s before. Um, totally total rookie. So, um, I started working on the database side, but also self-taught. Myself, a g I S and, um, begin putting the pieces together.

Jim Stritzinger: When you do, when you do a project like this, you kind of have to work back and forth. You have to work from the map to the data, right from the data to the map, um, and then write all of these custom queries. So, you know, in the end there's something like 3000 lines of sequel code I wrote doing complicated merges and joins and all of that kind of stuff.

Jim Stritzinger: But I, I wound up with a really interesting, um, data set at the end, which really unlocked South Carolina. And one of the big changes after really digging into the raw lines of data was recognizing that it's not so much, you know, one of the big frustrations, which you know well of the form [00:19:00] 4 77 data, is the ISPs are allowed to report their advertised speeds.

Jim Stritzinger: And, you know, through an engineer's lens, I was looking at the raw lines of code. And, um, I realized pretty quickly that the advertised speeds are useless. Exactly. However, I notice, I noticed this other column, which was the technology type. Mm-hmm. That's where the light bulb went off. And of course, from an engineer's perspective, I've known this, you all, we all know this, and the analogy I use for folks that aren't broadband nerds is I say, you know, if I drive past your house and I see a Ferrari sitting in your driveway, I know how fast you can drive.

Jim Stritzinger: If I drive past your house and I see a minivan sitting in your driveway, you can tell me that car goes 200 miles an hour, but I know you're lying. Right, 

Drew Clark: right, right. No, exactly. 

Jim Stritzinger: And. [00:20:00] I know the same is true with with internet technologies. If I drive past your house and I can see your home is connected to fiber, I know you can drive as fast as you can afford to drive.

Jim Stritzinger: Right. And that's, um, that's the genius. So once we, once we landed at, and I'll, I'll just simplify it for everybody. Once you recognize that any home with fiber in any home with high speed cable is not one of my problems, that was really a major light bulb moment. And then you realize what your problems really are is the places with dsl or more importantly, the, the, the, uh, homes that have nothing at all.

Jim Stritzinger: Yeah, yeah. 

Drew Clark: We're, we're gonna get, we got many listener questions. We're gonna get to those just now, but could you just kind of close out this, this phase and tell us just a little bit about, um, Jim Clyburn and, uh, the, the, the rural, uh, broadband task force and the [00:21:00] transition from Connect South Carolina to the official state broadband office head, uh, in South Carolina, Jim?

Jim Stritzinger: Sure. Um, so as my experiments continued to unfold a little bit, um, um, you know, Congressman Clyburn became aware of my effort. I began meeting his staff members. Um, you know, the experiment was unfolding. I was able to show some early versions of the map I was coming up with, and it was sparking a lot of interest with Congressman Clyburn's team and, um, so much so that I wound up getting an invitation to visit, uh, the US Capitol.

Jim Stritzinger: And, um, invited me to, to, um, bring some of our early mapping, some of our early results. And, um, I literally put it in the trunk of my car and carried up some static maps to Washington DC and had the thrill of my lifetime to be [00:22:00] escorted into the house Majority Whips conference room. And, um, uh, Congressman Clyburn, as you noted, is the head of the house, um, I think they call it the House Rural Task Force, right.

Jim Stritzinger: For broadband. And

Jim Stritzinger: seven members of Congress that day came into the conference room and, um, Congressman Clyburn introduced me and basically said, okay, Jim, show him what you did. Mm-hmm. And, uh, that was the thrill. That was a pinch yourself moment to be sure. And, um, and I'm grateful for all of his help and support and grateful in, um, introducing me to some key players, you know, Okla and, and some others along the way and Microsoft, and we've been able to do some really neat stuff.

Drew Clark: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well, I just have to briefly mention my own little, uh, in interface with, um, Jim [00:23:00] Clyburn and broadband mapping. Uh, when, when we built our first census block based based map, it was in South Carolina, it was from, it was Columbia, South Carolina. And Jim Clyburn actually was, was instrumental in, in helping us to kind of, uh, get that very small pilot project off the ground.

Drew Clark: And he later came and spoke at one of our broadband breakfast club events. But Clyburn, of course, this was, this was even before Minyon Clyburn's daughter became an FCC commissioner. She was then South Carolina Public Service Commissioner, and she's obviously been tireless in focusing on the need for getting better, better quality in the broadband maps.

Drew Clark: Uh, Jim, we're gonna keep talking, keep, keep geeking out a little bit on, on these, these maps questions. But, but the questions are, are coming in, so let's, let's, uh, come, come to some of them. This one from Jason Rudin. How do you thi, how do you think, like what's the process you use to think about the needs for compliance and auditing after grant money is distributed in South Carolina?

Drew Clark: Do you anticipate checking on [00:24:00] construction progress, subor, subcontractor qualifications, et cetera? 

Jim Stritzinger: Oh, that's a great question. And um, honestly, it's something we're really proud of and we've been innovating a lot there. So, uh, I wanna, this is my point to give a shout out to the broadband team here, um, in South Carolina.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, so I obviously brought some of my homegrown stuff to the office and got us started, but since, since getting it going, um, the compliance aspects are really complicated and, you know, kind of the worst possible situation for a state broadband office is you make a big investment and then it fails. So we've been looking to build, um, some tools and some technologies to help us verify that, uh, projects really come to life and they come to life at the federally designated speeds.

Jim Stritzinger: So we, um, you know, back to my friends at IBM and Okla, we did a little pilot project last year [00:25:00] and, um, That pilot project, I kind of challenged IBM and Okla to work together to see if we could really create a dashboard for the state of South Carolina so that we can real time see a project go live. Not because the I S P told us because, but we see okla speed test coming in that verify.

Jim Stritzinger: So we have independent third party verification with an engineering grade test telling us that that section of the network is now live. And um, we just did a very small pilot last year. I'm excited to say that it worked. We don't have it completely in production yet, but we do have a signed agreement with IBM now.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, we do have a signed license agreement with okla. Um, we have our server is coming to life and we'll be talking real time, but it's a combination of getting different data elements. Um, you know, one of the things as a broadband office, [00:26:00] You don't wanna send your team out in the field with hard hats all the time.

Jim Stritzinger: That's mm-hmm. A bad use of time. It gets really costly and, and really challenging. But if we can get pictures, so, um, we have embedded in our grant agreements now that the internet service providers on a quarterly basis will give us construction photos. And one of the cool things about photos, as we all know taking them, is they have embedded geotag information inside.

Jim Stritzinger: Right? Right. So, when an I S P just snaps a picture of a fiber splice going on, or a crew on the side of a telephone pole, that image itself contains the raw data we need. So Drew, you can imagine if you, if you leap to the future at the completion of a project, if a broadband office has a collection of photos, a collection of speed tests, and we have independent ulu speed tests coming [00:27:00] in through a third party, we have pretty good, almost a bulletproof audit package at the end.

Jim Stritzinger: That the network is live from a construction perspective. And of course we have a finance team here that's awesome. And they, they take wonderful care and, and look at all the invoices and, um, make sure all of the, the payments are done. And, and a distinguishing thing about South Carolina is we don't spend any money until the project is complete.

Jim Stritzinger: We don't do any advanced payments or anything, so, Hmm. We have to be good stewards of federal money. And the only time we pay out is when we verify construction is complete. We verify all the financial records and then we make our contribution to the project. 

Drew Clark: We got a question here from Elena Paxton, uh, from the New Jersey, uh, office of Broadband Connectivity.

Drew Clark: Uh, her question centers on budgeting the planning funds, right? So what is your [00:28:00] process for managing the design and plan of your broadband deployment program? So I guess this is a question about the plan for the plan, right? Like, not so much like where the actual networks, but your plan, Jim, like what are you doing?

Drew Clark: And, and, uh, Elaine asks, are you securing a consultant to help you with the planning and procurement? If, if so, how much of your planning funds are you allocating for that purpose? If not, what are you doing? Um, what process are you following? So any, any reaction to that? Uh, Jim? Sure, 

Jim Stritzinger: sure Elena. So, um, uh, thanks for that question.

Jim Stritzinger: I think, you know, I think what she's referring to is the bead and the digital equity planning that's going on. Okay. Thank you for clarifying. Yeah. I, I think I'm just guessing, but I think that's what she's clarifi, what she's responding to. So, um, a lot of broadband offices and specific to South Carolina is we're, we are deploying ARPA money right now, American Rescue Plan Money, and I think everybody [00:29:00] knows that the American Rescue Plan Act funds expire, or they have to be committed by the end of December, by December 31st, 2024.

Jim Stritzinger: And then there's two more years for construction completion. So the kind of the, the front burner, if you will, for the South Carolina broadband office is moving American Rescue Plan money. We have committed the South Carolina General Assembly allocated 400 million to the broadband office. In, in May of 2022.

Jim Stritzinger: We deployed approximately 150 million, um, in. Really the first quarter of this year, we, we wrapped it up on April 28th. We, we made our last, um, investment and, um, so we really have 250 million more dollars that we have to get committed be, um, by the end of next year. That includes Capital Projects Fund, and we just opened up that grant round on May 15th.[00:30:00] 

Jim Stritzinger: Okay. So we're moving that along. And then to, to Elena's question, how are we doing our planning? So in parallel with all of that stuff, we are going, the state is going through bead planning to get ready for those funds. Um, and we're also doing digital equity planning. So my office is in charge of the South Carolina broadband office is in charge of the infrastructure side, the bead planning, and we've partnered with another state agency, um, department of Administration to do the digital equity planning effort.

Jim Stritzinger: So we have engaged, um, we went through procurement and we engaged, um, a top consulting firm to work with us on that. In fact, they were just here the last couple days. Um, we've, we've enjoyed that collaboration cuz we didn't have enough, uh, staff inside our office to pull that off at the same time while we're doing everything else.

Drew Clark: So, as, as, as you well know, mapping is [00:31:00] key, but it's not the only part. And, and in fact, in some respects, it may not even be the most important part of what state broadband officers are doing, given that now you all have, have the funds or you will, as of June 30th, have a number on a piece of paper that is the number of funds that you'll be able to award.

Drew Clark: Um, you know, what, what other skills are needed to kind of. You know, run a process and, and, and in some ways this is building on El Elena's question, right? Like, how are you at this point in time, Jim, thinking about the way this grant process, challenge process is, is gonna go? 

Jim Stritzinger: Yeah. Well there's, there's so many little modules, if you will, that each broadband office has to create.

Jim Stritzinger: We have to create, um, ineligibility. Uh, process. We have to evaluate ISPs on whether they're capable of doing the work, you know, what's the risk of working with one provider versus another. Um, we have to design the MAP challenge [00:32:00] process. And, you know, kind of as I'm learning about the MAP challenge, we're required to, to get feedback from individual consumers.

Jim Stritzinger: So it's much like the FCC has done, but at the state level. And, you know, I'm abstracting from that some software development requirements that, that we're now seeing, um, that unpack. So it's very complicated. Um, it's also exciting, I think, I think a good way to describe a state office is in many ways we've been fully deputized, if you will, by the federal government to deploy federal funds.

Jim Stritzinger: So yeah, any fed any federal regulation. That exists has to be embedded in state grant documents and you know, it's a huge challenge to train our staff and get up to speed on all these different little nuances. Um, historical preservation, NPA requirements, um, resiliency requirements, [00:33:00] uh, Davis Bacon requirements.

Jim Stritzinger: I could go on and on. But our staff has to be trained. And then something that's not everybody's aware of is we have internet service providers that are all different sizes. We have some that are really f family owned companies that go back to the 1930s, you know, rural telephone co-ops. And we not only have to learn at the state broadband office, but we have to inform and lift up.

Jim Stritzinger: Even the smallest of our providers. So, so that everybody performs at a higher level. And so it's been a big, a big effort, um, across the board to make that all happen. 

Drew Clark: We have a number of questions about deadlines and, um, one, one from, um, AKA

Drew Clark: my apologies. But, um, this, this question asks, how does your office plan to [00:34:00] address the connectivity needs of unserved and underserved households in MDUs multiple dwelling units? Uh, do you plan to allocate bead funds to deploy managed wifi networks? I, I'll get to a, a timeline question just now, but, but that, that question from aca, what, what do you say to those who are concerned about broadband in, uh, MDUs, in, in apartment buildings, in places with lots of people?

Jim Stritzinger: That's such a great question. And, um, my compliments on that question cuz that's, that's really a inside baseball thing or a, a graduate level class, if you will, because we've typically are, are really well, we're getting better at. I'm, I'm really proud. So my team has moved from a census block mapping capability to complete statewide location level mapping, um, are all, we'll have all 46 counties mapped by June 30th this year.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, but where, where some of the higher order thinking [00:35:00] is with MDUs, they're, you know, Drew as you know, they're extremely challenging. You know, the f CCC decided that, uh, in M D U they would put a single dot on the map representing an M D U, and then you have a unit count, which represents the number of apartments, um, within that building.

Jim Stritzinger: So if there's 32 apartments, the unit count will be 32. Um, what's very common, especially in um, public housing and things of that nature, is the first floor might have the public wifi, and it's got the manager's office and they've got internet. But the second floor and the third floor, you know, not so much.

Jim Stritzinger: And other buildings, the building owner may own the franchise rights, if you will, to providing, um, internet service inside the building. So I won't say we have a, a good solution for that yet, but now that we're at a location level and we're evaluating. At a location level, we've [00:36:00] identified that, and we're gonna work on that, especially because bead funds allow, um, deployment of two community anchor institutions.

Jim Stritzinger: So as we define our community anchors, we will be defining those MDUs, especially the public housing MDUs as community anchors. And, um, we will really be getting into those and, and working equation. 

Drew Clark: So, uh, John Fitz asks the timeline question. Um, can you please provide a timeline of what the bead process steps will be in South Carolina?

Drew Clark: Similar ask of, um, Sean McDowell. Um, what, what is the state's deadline to receive grant application requests? What, what do you know thus far? And when are you gonna flush out the rest of your, your, your timeline details, Jim? 

Jim Stritzinger: So, um, the way I like to describe it is, Most federal programs, grant programs, [00:37:00] you have to go through a planning process first, excuse me.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, before you reach the pot of gold, you have to go through plans, they have to get approved, and then the pot of gold becomes available. So in this, in the state of South Carolina and across across the United States, we've been told, and this is subject to change of course, but as of June 30th, we will become aware of what the formula funding will be for the state of South Carolina for bead.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, and also, you know, for the, um, yeah, really just for the bead program. Um, in South Carolina, the deadline for our five year action plan is August 28th. Um, and our digital equity plan is due on November 30th. There's another piece of the five year broadband plan. It's called the initial proposal, and that is also due before the end of the year.

Jim Stritzinger: So we're. We're, we definitely wanna get all the planning stuff wrapped [00:38:00] up in calendar year 2023. And by the way, we are required both the initial proposal and the digital equity plan are required to be posted for public comment. So just rough guess. Somewhere in the October zone we'll be publishing our stuff for comment and we'd love to have everybody commenting on those.

Jim Stritzinger: But then it gets turned over to N T I A N T I A has to go through their approval processes. And my own personal guess is that we will begin deploying, um, for real, um, B dollars in calendar year 2025 and Okay. 

Drew Clark: May not be the answer some of us want to hear, but if it's the truth, that's the truth, right? I mean, it's gonna take a while.

Drew Clark: Right? That was what you're saying, Jim. 

Jim Stritzinger: It absolutely is gonna take a while. And also, uh, Drew, keep in mind we have to [00:39:00] deploy ARPA dollars first. I mean, my team is consumed because those, those dollars disappear. So we still have $250 million worth of financial investment that needs to be made before we even think about beads.

Jim Stritzinger: So we're, we're really excited about it. But beautifully for South Carolina's purposes, we will be investing bead dollars. And of course, that is shrinking the, the remaining number of unserved homes. So we're gonna try and make as much impact as we can with our ARPA dollars such that our bead dollars can be used for, for some different things.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, we think we'll be able to make some major investments in community anchors, uh, with our, uh, bead dollars. 

Drew Clark: We have another question That's a good one from John Fitz. He asks, um, does the state of South Carolina have a preference regarding fiber versus others? And he also asks, uh, do you capture and or consider latency and PA packet [00:40:00] loss?

Drew Clark: And finally, uh, are we likely to see any incentives that might bring fiber to areas that have more than 25, 3 i e they are served, but we all know that's not adequate. In other words, getting at this under underserved category from 25 3 to 120, is there any way we can make sure we get fiber in there?

Drew Clark: That's kind of the question as I understand it. Yeah, so 

Jim Stritzinger: go ahead Jim. It it's, it's a great question and I will tell you that what we're doing, so we have licensed in South Carolina, we've licensed all of the ulu speed test data for the whole state. Um, so. Uh, we will have real time access to that. So, you know, there'll be a nightly drop of, of data as that comes in.

Jim Stritzinger: The okla data, of course, in the raw data includes, uh, actual download speed, actual upload speed, but also latency measurements. So we are tracking that stuff and we're excited to, to see that. Um, also [00:41:00] strategically, one of the things we did in South Carolina, which I'm so proud of, is in November of 2021, we made the strategic decision that digital subscriber lines no longer provide reliable 25 3 service anywhere in the state.

Jim Stritzinger: So really that's the place where most states are gonna see what we would call an underserved customer. In, in other words, most historical maps have reflected those homes as being served by 25 3. We don't believe it. Yeah, so we took all DSL off the table November of 2021. That opened up all of these regions in South Carolina for investment two years ago.

Jim Stritzinger: So we're moving exponentially quickly down the path. Um, really the only, the only places, pockets that I see that will be underserved in South Carolina are really the old school [00:42:00] cable. You know, um, for those of you that are familiar with cable, you've got DOCSIS 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, different flavors of cable. Um, I think really where we're gonna see less than 100 slash 20 are places where we have.

Jim Stritzinger: Cable networks that haven't been maintained in the last, you know, 10, 15 years. Well, 

Drew Clark: and it's interesting you bring up this, this is a new point I hadn't heard of that South Carolina's taken DSL off the table kind of in the way that the federal government for B took, took satellite service off the table.

Drew Clark: Right. Is that, is that a kind of a customization? What do you, what do you hear from your state colleagues about, um, taking DSL off the table, 

Jim Stritzinger: so to speak? Oh my gosh. Um, I mean, when I, when I shared this with my colleagues at the state broadband leader, they stood up and applauded. 

Drew Clark: I was gonna applaud here, but I, you know, very, very good to hear that.

Drew Clark: Well, so do, are they following you? That's the real question. Are they gonna 

Jim Stritzinger: do anything about it? Yeah. Well, and I think what [00:43:00] we've done, Drew, was we celebrated D S L and I, I still do. I, you know, I remember when my house got a digital subscriber line and how happy I was. And you know, let's face it, D s l propelled the US economy for many years.

Jim Stritzinger: So I, I celebrate that fact. But I also recognize, and you know, from my Microsoft background, I, I equate DSL to Windows xp. You know, it's at the end of its new life and, and you celebrate it. And it carried a long way. But we cannot pro propel the US economy on DSL technology. Yeah. It's, it's beyond its useful life and we have to overbuild it.

Jim Stritzinger: Okay. 

Drew Clark: Okay. A question about, um, tribe tribes and sort of two part, one, one deals with the tribe tribal data sovereignty issue in, in mapping, but also just could you talk about the role of tribes in South Carolina's broadband process? Jim, 

Jim Stritzinger: Absolutely. Um, so in the state of South Carolina, we only have one federally recognized tribe.

Jim Stritzinger: That's the Kata nation. Um, and, but we have lesser known tribes as well. And of course we wanna reach everybody. And, um, and the CATA nation has been, or is currently blessed with fairly good connectivity, but we also know that there's a lot of, um, very needy, um, low income residents of, of the nation. And not just catava, but the, um, the tribal areas.

Jim Stritzinger: So we're going to approach those areas very, um, graciously from the digital equity perspective and make sure they have the training and the skills. But I have a lot of, we still have 250 million of ARPA dollars. You know, the best way to reach everyone is to literally reach everyone. You know, one, you know, for, for too long.

Jim Stritzinger: We've been [00:45:00] happy, um, you know, patting ourselves on the back, that 93% of the homes or whatever, you know, we, you know, in the US we're, we're happy and we give ourselves an A grade too, too often, but when you calculate the raw number of homes that you're missing, um, you know, 93 is not good. Now we have to be a hundred 0.0%.

Jim Stritzinger: Yeah. And of, of access. And then we've reached everybody. But that's really when digital equity kicks in and that's when you want all the skills playing out and lifting up those residents so that they can really take advantage. And I know Drew, you and I, we had the ability to get DSL way back when and.

Jim Stritzinger: We got, we had 20 years to figure out all of this stuff. So I think the challenge now is to connect a home to fiber at, or fiber or high speed cable as quickly as possible, and then compress that learning curve instead of 20 years down to two years. Mm-hmm. So that home is rock doing what they need to do to be successful.

Drew Clark: Do you have any [00:46:00] additional thoughts on tribal data sovereignty, Jim? 

Jim Stritzinger: Um, you know, we're not, I, I would really look for my Western colleagues. Okay. I don't consider my, myself. Yeah. You know, the, the. The, the, the tribal challenges out west, um, greatly, greatly outweigh what we have here in South Car. I'm not saying we have zero, right?

Jim Stritzinger: Right. But, you know, we've got large, large federal lands with large tribal communities, and the tribes here in South Carolina, at least from an infras infrastructure perspective, are, are being taken care of. And then we'll, we'll, we'll approach that, you know, very carefully and thoughtfully with our digital equity programs.

Jim Stritzinger: What, what 

Drew Clark: are some of your other neighboring states doing? Have you interacted with North Carolina and Georgia and Florida? Uh, how, how are their pro projects coming along?

Jim Stritzinger: Um, uh, I'm sorry, with I, I missed a little bit of that. [00:47:00] Is that just, oh, I was just asking about 

Drew Clark: No, no, Le we're done with that question. Just moving to more generally, what ex, what have you learned? Leonard Robertson asked the question, what has South Carolina's office learned from your neighbors? North Carolina, Georgia, Florida.

Jim Stritzinger: Well, one of the greatest things for me is meeting the other state broadband leader, colleagues. I mean, I've learned so much. N T I A has fostered a wonderful state broadband leader network and a couple times a year we get together, we've become very close friends. Um, we learn, we share ideas. Um, you know, I've, as, as I've gotten deeper and deep, and I've been doing this for a while, so I know all the N T I A folks, but one of the things I've learned to appreciate is I think every state broadband director really has a superpower of, of some sort.

Jim Stritzinger: And we all have different things. Obviously I'm a nerd, so I have a lot of mapping background, but some of my other colleagues, um, [00:48:00] have really, really great background with digital equity and they've been doing it for a long time. Um, others have been government affairs leaders and elected officials. So you add all of that up and when we come together, we, we share really well, um, I've been trying to mentor some other states that have needed help with, with mapping some of the stuff we've figured out and we're trying to share freely, you know, grant documents and things like that, any ideas along the way.

Jim Stritzinger: So it's just been a real gift. So I've learned a ton, you know, North Carolina and Georgia, we've become really good friends. Um, I know both broadband directors very, very well and digital equity directors, so it's been a great, very, uh, collaborative, um, situation. 

Drew Clark: Could you talk a little bit about HBCUs, historically, black colleges and universities, and have ARPA funds been allocated towards H B U C [00:49:00] H B C U infrastructure upgrade 

Jim Stritzinger: requirements?

Jim Stritzinger: Oh my gosh. Well, I am so proud that's, that's one of the things I'm most proud of in South Carolina is working with our HBCUs. Um, we. Um, I believe there's seven of them in South Carolina. Um, I've been personally involved in doing grant assistance, um, to help, you know, N T I A had a, um, connecting minority communities program aimed at the HBCUs, and I worked, you know, on, on some grants to help lift them up.

Jim Stritzinger: We had two success stories with the connecting Minority Community program here in South Carolina. In fact, um, vice President Harris came to award, uh, Benedict College here in Columbia, South Carolina. Mm-hmm. And their their great award. And I got to meet Vice President Harris when she came, so that was fantastic.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, Congressman Clyburn, of course, has been a huge supporter and, um, I look at [00:50:00] the HBCUs as being, um, really a crown jewel of the South Carolina economy, and especially as we go into the rural areas, you know, the students and the faculty of the universities are perfectly positioned. To lift up their neighboring communities to teach them digital skills.

Jim Stritzinger: So, you know, if the broadband office can assist, um, especially when we get into the community anchors, you know, all of all of the H B C U campuses will be designated cais in our model. We will be able to, um, make investments and make sure they have, you know, high speed connectivity, a wealth of that coming to campus itself.

Jim Stritzinger: And we're also interested in helping lift up, um, really the building to building connectivity on the campus. The dark fiber network, if you will. Right, right. That assist with four walls. 

Drew Clark: So you, you, you've mentioned several times, Jim, the kind of the updated [00:51:00] map that South Carolina's working on, and I think you kind of threw in the J June, June 30th timeframe.

Drew Clark: Obviously June 30th, everyone's got that date and blazing their brain because that's when the NTA will be announcing the amounts that each state will have. And those amounts are determined by the fccs broadband map. And you keep talking about your map. So talk a little bit more about how is the South Carolina map different from the Federal Communications Commissions broadband map, and how do you see that kind of improving going forward vis-a-vis the Federal Communications Commissions 

Jim Stritzinger: Yep. So, um, the, the cool thing is Drew, we have the exact same data. So what we do is every six months, just like the fcc, we require the state's broadband. Um, ISPs to report data to my office. And so what we, we really begin doing and we have a fabulous partnership with the fcc. [00:52:00] We actually start processing the data the same day the FCC does.

Jim Stritzinger: And of course we're gonna lower the blades on South Carolina data much quicker than the federal government can cuz we're, all we care about is South Carolina. So we're processing in parallel and we're also auditing our ISPs cuz we really have a fingerprint of where they were six months ago. We, we have very accurate, detailed map of where they were and we now know with their fresh data where they claim to be.

Jim Stritzinger: Um, and we kind of know where our investments have gone so we can accurately determine errors in their mapping data. And in fact, I just know in our last cycle we've audited several and we've required them to actually. File amended returns with the fcc. Um, and the other thing that we do is we 

Drew Clark: have Careful, did you, did you say you tell re providers to refile their, their [00:53:00] reports based on data you've verified?

Drew Clark: Is that what you just said? Exactly. When we, that's amazing. That's the first time I've heard of a state saying, Hey, you know, it's not good enough. Go back and fix this. 

Jim Stritzinger: Oh yeah. And a really good example of that is if, if we know, um, if we funded a project and then we look at their data and the project, let's just say the project was supposed to be done December 31st last year.

Jim Stritzinger: And um, and then we look at their data in March and it doesn't include that project. Well, guess what? It fails our audit and we require 'em to fix it. And we've done that multiple times. Um, where it also shows up, Drew is on the technology type. So if they misreport the technology type, we have 'em fix it and um mm-hmm.

Jim Stritzinger: And if they don't fix it, we will report that to the fcc. Um, and especially if they're a [00:54:00] multiple state provider, um, it, it becomes a scary situation when they, they face enforcement actions. But yes, we do require amended filings. And, um, we also, you know, when a provider reports to the fcc, they also, um, have a cover page that comes back, a certification that the filing actually occurred.

Jim Stritzinger: And so when they upload their data, they give us a copy of that cover page so we know the exact timestamp of when it went in. 

Drew Clark: Great. Well, we, we have been deluged with questions. We're not gonna be able to get to all of them, but let's try to move into a, a lightning round. I'm gonna go as quick as I can and ask the same of you, Jim.

Drew Clark: So climate requirements, is that a big deal or not? 

Jim Stritzinger: I'm sorry, 

Drew Clark: repeat please. Climate requirements, requirements for climate resiliency. Oh, just 10 words. Big deal or not big, 

Jim Stritzinger: big deal. It's kind of an open, we don't have a good answer for it yet, but we're looking at it hard.

Drew Clark: We got two people raising issues about letter of credit.

Drew Clark: Um, how, how can we deal with this issue? This is kind of, can be burdensome. What is your thoughts on that, Jim? 

Jim Stritzinger: Yep. Um, in South Carolina, we're, we're gonna have to work our way through letter of credit as well. In South Carolina, since we pay for the project at the end, we think we're protecting the state investment pretty well.

Jim Stritzinger: And, um, we're also waiving bond requirements for ISPs. One of the things we did is we waived bond requirements for any I s P that had over a hundred million of, um, telecommunications capital or, uh, equipment in production. Okay. So that, that was a good way to save a lot of money. 

Drew Clark: We got a couple people, Rick Schroeder and Sean McDowell, asking about electric co-ops.

Drew Clark: Uh, what's, what's your take on the, the way they can play a, a significant role in bead? 

Jim Stritzinger: Um, Well, electric co-ops are [00:56:00] playing a big role in South Carolina right now in arpa, and what's been really exciting to watch is the way the partnerships have come together. The electric co-ops are working together with, um, rural telephone co-ops.

Jim Stritzinger: They, they share a common DNA and they are moving very, very rapidly. We have a couple projects where we have over 400 people in a single county working to build out the county right now. It's very, very exciting. 

Drew Clark: Um, a question about what, what are the best lessons learned thus far with ARPA funding and, and other, other things you've already dealt with on helping the unserved and underserved communities?

Drew Clark: What, what are the lessons learned thus far? 

Jim Stritzinger: Um, I guess lessons learned is, um, You know, one of the things from us is if, if you wanna make sure a project gets built, you have to ask for the data on the front end. So building requirements into your grant documents so that you [00:57:00] can confirm construction at the end is a really big deal.

Jim Stritzinger: So we have iterated through a couple of grant cycles now, we now embed and require, for example, ulu speed test data. So every time a home is connected, we require an Ulis speed test data with a, um, street address, and then that flows into the back end and helps us, gives us good confidence. What, 

Drew Clark: what about other speed tests?

Drew Clark: I think that's, can you include other speed tests or like, uh, yeah. Instrument 

Jim Stritzinger: lab. Yeah, absolutely. So as you well know, um, mainline construction is best tested with engineering grade equipment. So what we figured out is guess what you can take when the, when the engineering grade test for the mainline is done, you just take a picture of the screen and it's got the latitude and the longitude in it.

Jim Stritzinger: Right? And it also has, uh, the timestamp. So we, we will map that and we have complete construction of, of mainline. Yes. 

Drew Clark: I wanna also [00:58:00] ask about, um, muni broadband. Are, are there, uh, is, is that a restriction in South Carolina? How will that affect you all? I'm sorry, it broke up just a little bit on me.

Drew Clark: Municipal broadband require limit limitations on municipal broadband. Is that a, is that an issue in South Carolina? How will you deal with that? 

Jim Stritzinger: Well, um, you know, we actually have municipal broadband. Um, in fact, uh, Orangeburg County has its own. Broadband office. We, we did a little bit of stuff with the, uh, um, the B O P program.

Jim Stritzinger: There was another municipal network created in early 2000. Um, candidly, it's not holding us up at all. Um, okay. Pretty much every municipality in the state now has broadband or, or has a funded project underway, so it hasn't held us up whatsoever. All 

Drew Clark: right. Penultimate question, Jim. Can you explain the role of the Broadband Advisory Council in facilitating collaboration and the role [00:59:00] of local coordination generally?

Jim Stritzinger: Well, our B B A C has been awesome. Um, we formed it a couple years ago, so we have the provider community represented a course, but we've also folded in other elements of state government, public safety, uh, department of education, um, the nonprofit sector. It's, it's been an exciting way. We're, we're looking at that as evolving, especially with the BEAT requirements and we're kind of taking that under advisement in terms of who might need to be added on.

Jim Stritzinger: But it's been a great resource and continues to be. 

Drew Clark: Well, we have run out of time. This has been an incredible hour gone by super fast. I'm a huge fan of the Palmetto State. Jim, I love going down there. And my last question for you is about your state. What is the best beach in South Carolina? 

Jim Stritzinger: Oh wow. I will get myself in trouble here, but I, I think I gotta go with Hilton Head cuz you [01:00:00] know, I lived there for eight years.

Jim Stritzinger: My family loves it. Um, and I, I would vote for Hilton Head. 

Drew Clark: Well, that will have to be our last word for today. Um, join us, join us again for our next, uh, ask me anything, which will be coming up soon. Look, uh, on the schedule at and on behalf of everyone in the broadband community, thank you Jim Stritzinger for spending this hour with us and we'll look forward to seeing you online.

Drew Clark: Take care. 

Jim Stritzinger: Grateful Drew. Thank you.