Join the Debate: Who Should Get $42 Billion of Broadband Grants?

Join the Debate: Who Should Get $42 Billion of Broadband Grants? Banner Image

Jan 21, 2022


What Do You Think?

Who should get funded?

Incumbents? Local ISPs? Community partnerships only?

Where should the funding go?
Should states be able to prevent RDOF subsidy areas from getting IIJA funding?

What should the funding do? 

Fiber only? Wireless? Hybrid?

Weigh in, and hear from others. 

Event Transcript

Drew Clark: Alright. Now we begin. So forgive me for that. We have a lot of moving parts. My name is Drew Clark. I'm with Broadband Breakfast and here with Broadband.Money founder, Jase Wilson. We are going to have a very collaborative and exciting discussion this afternoon. Let me just turn it off first to Jase to tell us a little bit about the collaborative part of today, which is just a little bit different from the Ask Me Anythings we've been doing on a regular basis. Jase, kick that off, if you don't mind.

Jase Wilson: Yeah, absolutely, Drew. Thank you for hosting us, and thank you everybody for making time, and a third thank you for everybody on the call. If you're on this call, it means a minimum that you work on helping connect folks to broadband.

Drew Clark: Keep going, keep going. Just little feedback. Nothing to...

Jase Wilson: I thought maybe there was a second Drew. I was legitimately terrified there for a second. Yeah, you're in the business of helping folks get connected to broadband and that's greatly appreciated from all of us at Broadband.Money. And our job is to help local providers and the communities that they team up with get their share of the grant money that's coming up and do that in a way that it's a software platform that puts powerful geospatial analytics tools and grant application workflow tools at the fingertips of applicants, and it helps... It lets them invite collaborators like grant writers if they have one. We're working out partnerships with lots of amazing consultants who can help applicants write their grants and do engineering and do all kinds of great things for their application to strengthen their application. And the ultimate goal is to help local providers and the communities they team up with make sure that they get the lion's share of the funding so that they can roll up their sleeves and get the job done to get folks on broadband. We've had a few hundred folks already pre-enrolled, folks that are pre-enrolled and waiting on their invite for the application process that's coming in the next couple of weeks.

Jase Wilson: With the few hundred that have pre-enrolled, we're doing it on a rolling basis, starting from the first folks. So a few of you are already getting beta invites to the system, and we're working out feedback and making sure that it's getting better and better each week. And then lastly, we do have Match Capital assistance so that if you're a strong provider and you're looking for how you're gonna actually fund up your commitment and the private Match Capital requirement of your portion of the grant, we have that available too.

Jase Wilson: And on this event, Drew, it's really a common and popular thing among techies to do something like this, to... We have Dave Todd, for example, who works on the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group. They're getting ready to release a white paper, and in the white paper, you see the hard work and efforts and brain power of dozens of really smart people getting together and collaborating around a Google Doc, which is cool because it's something that you can do when you have internet, right. And it's an interesting example of the uses of broadband in making sure we gotta get everybody connected so that folks can do fun collaborative processes like this. And the idea was inspired by... In 2010, I think 2011, I don't really remember at this point but... When Google Fiber announced its RFE process among communities over an event in Kansas City over whiskey Friday. Maybe it was too much whiskey back then and that's why I don't remember exactly when it was, but I just said, "Well, okay, let's start a Google Doc and then start to answer the questions that they're asking," and then it became sort of a snowball effect, and fast forward, and ultimately, a lot of those answers and that process became what the city used to submit its application.

Jase Wilson: And the process was really cool to see because really, really smart people joined into the conversation and used the Google Doc tool to add their comments, add their suggestions. And so the thought is here, there's a lot of diverse perspectives about where this money should be deployed, and everybody is going to, in the end, submit their own comment but we wanna submit one too, and we want it to be something that we get inputs from a lot of diverse perspectives on purpose, right? And regardless of political affiliation, regardless of professional affiliation, the thought is that the people on this call, the people that are gonna have access to continue to comment on our open source document in the coming weeks all have some background in context that they bring to the table.

Jase Wilson: And so even though the answers that some folks will want to see happen for their application for the grant funding process, what they wanna say to the NTIA, is going to differ from the perspectives of others, that's okay, right? As long as we remember that we're all here to help get people connected to broadband and we're respectful, then we think that it's a really great place to actually have challenging conversations about the differences of perspective on where the money ought to go and what it ought to fund, okay? So that's the gist of it in a nutshell, and it's gonna be live and available for a few weeks. So I really appreciate anybody that wants to weigh in, and I think with that, Drew, let's go ahead and get started. Do you wanna share your screen?

Drew Clark: Absolutely. So I am going to just say one or two just quick words logistically so that we can understand our process here. Now, in some ways, we've got multiple things going on in this session here that we don't always have going on in out Ask Me Anything events. And the first thing I want to do is to showcase the page for this event, which all of you know because that's where you registered. So I am sharing my screen that shows you what... At least I thought I was... Maybe I'm sharing an infinite loop. I will share my screen that shares the event that we are hosting. And this is it, this is the page, you can... I'm not gonna open an infinity loop, but this is the stream, so it's publicly available. And, as you can see, we prompt you with questions, thoughts, things you can do to put forth your views, and here's the embedded document. So that's what I just wanted to showcase. This is our embedded document, nicely formatted and I think my understanding, Jase, Broadband.Money will make this decision that you intend to submit it, but the point now is just to get the conversation rolling. And so that's what we're gonna do right now. Is that fair, Jase?

Jase Wilson: Yeah, that's perfect, Drew. Thank you.

Drew Clark: Alright. So now I'm going to the spot where we can see the actual document. The crowd source...

Jase Wilson: Well, that was a cool command. I didn't know about that command.

Drew Clark: This is what... This is what most...

Jase Wilson: That's nice.

Drew Clark: I'm a new Mac user, so I had to learn a bunch of commands. I devoted...

Jase Wilson: Yeah, this is great.

Drew Clark: So this is our document here. Everyone...

Jase Wilson: One ask, Drew. One quick ask, Drew. Could you...

Drew Clark: Go ahead.

Jase Wilson: Could you please embiggen Command plus plus?

Drew Clark: Absolutely.

Jase Wilson: Just embiggen it a little bit so that... Yeah, there we go. And then view, Full Screen. That'll give us some... That'll maximize our...

Drew Clark: Wonderful.

Jase Wilson: There we go.

Drew Clark: Alright.

Jase Wilson: Sweet.

Drew Clark: Thanks for... This is why we work together. We get more good ideas. So I'm sharing the screen here. It's hiding the right end which is who's commenting, but we're gonna take this and anyone who makes a comment or offers a thought, like a suggested comment will appear as we're talking. So what I have done to tee this up, tee it off, is raised a couple of issues that are top of mind so just I scroll through it... I'm gonna scroll through so I can have the benefit of these thoughts. Again, deadline for comments is February 4th, 2022. The document is mostly just cut and paste below, this section here. This is all language from the NTIA so we'll go through, make comments or invite comments. I have flagged the summary for the themes or areas that they are raising, these are these bullet points. And then the check boxes are my review of... I don't know, just subjective take on hot button items or items that I suspect those on this call have a lot to say about, not that this is everything, not that I've completely got the totality, but my take on those that are really important issues.

Drew Clark: So again, quickly, I hope to do this in the next two minutes. These are the core themes or areas bringing reliable broadband, supporting states and the sub-grantees, because that's where the money is going, where the 42.5 billion in the BEAD Program, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Act, is going. It's going to states which are then passing it to sub-grantees. The issue of American workers, obviously we are in America, it's about promoting welfare for American citizens and workers. There's also some sections on buy American which may prove controversial, we will raise that, and then a couple of points about specific issues that are addressed under BEAD in section by section, publicly funded broadband networks, universal broadband, state local tribal partnerships, low cost and definitions of low cost. Then there is a separate program called the Digital Equity Act. This is separate from the 42.5 billion. It's in the 65 billion, but it's separate from the 42.5. So this is about 2.75 billion that's going to states to do something different than infrastructure, to do digital equity plans and to do digital equity coordination. And so there are some questions in this request for comments on that. And then also the Middle Mile broadband infrastructure program, which is a paltry one billion, somewhat but in truth, that is very little when you compare it to the 42.5 for generally Last Mile broadband, and the issues raised by that.

Drew Clark: And then again, I've teed up a couple of issues. If we wanted to go kind of area by area, this is where I would start. The types of data requested in question three, the process for state efforts and NTIA supervision of them, matching requirements, I know Jase will have lots to say on that as well as many of our people, Buy American rules, speed requirements, the overplay and underplay with prior builds, prior broadband builds, unserved areas, as well as these additional questions here that you can all see so I won't read them through. So let me pause for a second there and see... Jase, if you have any thoughts, or whether we want to invite people to address specific questions order by order. One more quickly, just trickle thing, we want you to put comments on the document but you can also post them on the page for this event which Jase has just shared with everyone in the chat room. We disabled the comments so that you would put your comments on the page or in the Google Doc but if you have an emergency or you want to be recognized, you can send a message to myself or to Jase or to another on our team here. So with that, let me invite you, Jase, to weigh in and have some of your thoughts here.

Jase Wilson: Thank you, Drew. That sounds great, and I love your idea to get folks to volunteer which questions they think are most important, and I love that you put together the list. I would say we're not gonna make it through every question on the call, in the span of the call, but that's alright. This is hopefully the start of a process that snowballs. When we did this for the original... The starting Google Doc for the Google Fiber KCMO application, it took place over the course of several sessions and people weighed in even asynchronously where they just... When they had time, would come in and add thoughts so that's something that we're really appreciative of. If anybody has thoughts, they'll come in, add them, maybe not right on the call but whatever we get to today is awesome, it's just an example. And if people really like this format and it works and people find it valuable and wanna do more follow-up, we can definitely schedule a follow-up event and keep doing this sort of question by question. Thank you, Drew.

Drew Clark: Alright, great. So once again, we invite you, if you've got something you want to raise, to join the chat window. We will also... Let me just flag for my colleague, Ben Kahn, who I do see is on. If you could just sort of follow the comments and flag them for me and Jase in the chat window 'cause that's the window I'll be focusing on in addition to the Google Doc. I'm gonna just... Absent to other people, I'm gonna start with question three because this is one of the first questions, and I see it's helpfully yellowed in, thank you whoever did that. I'm not gonna read it 'cause, again, this is part of the point. You all can see these things. But it does talk a lot about transparency and public accountability but it really gets to the data. What types of data should NTIA require funding recipients to collect and maintain to facilitate assessment of the program? So that, in some ways, is maybe a little bit less expansive than I initially first thought. I thought it might address the broadband data. But let's just raise this issue because this is definitely an issue out there. Some people are saying, "Well, we can't do the money until the until FCC finishes their updated broadband maps." But that's not a completely uncontroversial point, and it may be a pretty backwards way to look at things. Jase, I know you've got some thoughts on this. Do you wanna address that question of data?

Drew Clark: Jase, do you wanna... Have any thoughts on the data question?

Jase Wilson: Alright, Drew, technical difficulty on my side.

Drew Clark: Okay, no problem.

Jase Wilson: Quick thoughts on the data question?

Drew Clark: Yeah. Thoughts for you or... We've got many viewers... Okay.

Jase Wilson: I think the NTIA has a treasure trove of data, as we heard from Scott Woods that...

Drew Clark: Last week.

Jase Wilson: That they have lots and lots of data. There's a lot that they work to publish into their maps, and that's really important and powerful. We're working to release, as part of the Broadband.Money application system, sets of maps that'll be publicly available even to non-applicants. But any group that the NTIA has a connection with, we hope that they will consider making the data freely available to applicants so that everybody's on the same page, or at least has the chance to get the understanding and awareness that's necessary to make good decisions about their own policies and... From a timing perspective, and maybe this is addressed somewhere else, we personally think that it's crazy to wait five extra months on FCC to get broadband maps published. That issue maybe is addressed separately here in this document but it's crazy to think that that's adding that amount of time to a timeline that is about getting people connected as soon as possible. So we would ask, somewhere, maybe here, maybe somewhere else, could we please speed it up. And then to another point about this, we need data on not just speed.

Jase Wilson: Speed... The idea of sort of saying, "Well, if it's 100 over 20 or above, it's magically... Everything's fine but if it's below that, it's not great." There are other factors. If you look at the 15th question, I already posted a comment from Dave, who showed me Mitec is working on this definition of working latency, for example. And we wanna make sure that latency is a big factor. We wanna make sure that general packet loss variants, all those things that shape a connection quality are considered, and for those to be studied and understood alongside speed, it requires really good information and data available to folks. So we would just ask that it be comprehensive about the connection quality overall, not just about the speed, and I know that they're working to bring latency into the conversation and that's awesome, but keep digging. And then for the Broadband.Money applicants, they'll have lots and lots of additional data and information from a bunch of different sources that maybe the government won't necessarily publish directly, but that's gonna be something that we hope will help them get a good advantage and understanding of shaping their applications.

Drew Clark: Great. No, thank you. Sorry, I unshared and re-shared my screen so I could attend to something else. Let's keep moving, our time is limited, and we're not gonna stop right at the half hour, so we'll go on at least till 3:45, 4 o'clock as people want. But we still wanna be conscious time and of what you want to talk about. Like I said, I previewed a couple of questions and I put a little check mark in there, and if someone says, "Don't wait to talk about question 32 or 34," well, then we'll kind of do this but otherwise let's go to this next one, the process of state efforts, because that is another very crucial question here as I have seen it and it concerns the broadband infrastructure law requiring states and territories to competitively select sub-grantees to deploy broadband, carry out digital equity programs and accomplish other tasks. How should NTIA assess a particular state or territory sub-grant process? What criteria, if any, should NTIA use? Should NTIA apply to evaluate such processes? So this is really crucial because, in some respects, as we've been drilling into this and the reporting we're doing on Broadband.Money, as well as of course, at Broadband Breakfast, we are conscious of the fact that states have a pretty wide berth here, right?

Drew Clark: That is to say, they aren't gonna be barred from making awards where RDOF awards have already been made, but they may not be required to either. So I think what this is opening up to is people to comment on, should NTIA take a little bit of a heavier hand in its attitude towards this process? So again, this is an important topic, and we wanna get your comments on... You can feel free, everyone, to make a comment on the sheet. And I see someone is turning on the screen here. Does this mean you'd like to speak? If so, let's go ahead and open it up to Odette Wilkens.

Odette Wilkens: Hi, it's Odette Wilkens. Thank you very much, Drew. I really appreciate you recognizing me. I'm a technology attorney, and I'm also president and general counsel of Wired Broadband. We're a non-profit group that advocates for wired solutions as the faster, more reliable, more cyber-secure alternatives. And one of the things that I think is very important to consider with respect to competitive...

Jase Wilson: Attitude towards...

Odette Wilkens: In determining how states should compete, I think it should be left to the states. I think that there's been a little bit too much power vested in federal agencies in the FCC and it tends towards the big carriers and corporations at the expense of grassroots efforts to try to have more of a say in terms of what kind of service they want because we cannot presume, even in terms of digital equity, that corporations or the carriers or providers know what the consumer wants. It's the consumer that indicates, that provides the information as to what they want and need. But in a number of instances around the country, there have been situations, many situations, in which they have been told that their hands are tied, that they're pre-empted, and that they are forced to have services that they do not want or need, and therefore spend a lot of time trying to undo what's been done. So I think that the local approach is very important because that has been largely ignored, that has been largely overtaken by large corporate interests and by the FCC. I think it's time that we have local governments and local authorities really have more of a say on this.

Odette Wilkens: As a matter of fact, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 specifically relegated and reserved to the states and local governments the ability to protect their communities. And so we have to make sure that we provide that opportunity and make it... Make it very... And make this competitive process accessible to local grassroots organizations and to local residents who can then determine what it is that they want and need with respect to broadband capacity. That was a mouthful so... [laughter]

Jase Wilson: That was awesome, Odette. Thank you for that knowledge and that context and background and emphasis on local. We strongly agree and think definitely that that's something that should resonate throughout the answers that we crowd source here and send it. And we love that the NTIA has structured the process to be... States decide, and we really, truly hope the states take it even a step further and say, "Well, let the communities drive where this goes." And so it's cool to hear you say all that. Thank you.

Odette Wilkens: Thank you, Jase.

Drew Clark: One moment. Okay, thank you. Yeah, thank you again. Odette, the only question I would have in addition is, well, so what's your answer to this question, right? What would you want to suggest? And go ahead and suggest it in the document to, should there be a criteria imposed on NTIA to evaluate the success or failure of a particular state grantee I.e., the state body that then will make grants to sub-grantees?

Odette Wilkens: Right. And I'll make my comment in the document. The other thing that should be put in for a competitive qualification is that if the particular provider already received subsidies from the government over the past 20 years or so to put fiber to the premises, they have to be examined in the light in which... Under which they received those grants, and to see whether they accomplished the purposes of those grants. And if they have not, that that should be a disqualifying factor, unless they are going to true up and provide the services that they promised over the past 20 years. Apparently, New York is not the only one with that dilemma. There are other states with that dilemma as well. So that would be certainly a major criteria.

Drew Clark: Okay. Well, thank you, and thank you for coming on to raise your point here, and we invite others. Let's kind of keep marching through. I wanna get to the question nine, matching requirements. Several bipartisan infrastructure law broadband programs provide that absent a waiver, a grant or sub-grantee recipient must contribute its own funding, or funding obtained from a non-federal source, to match funding provided by government infrastructure law program, the program. My understanding, again, I'm fuzzy on this one just at this moment is, I think that other funds, ARRA funds, federal funds can be used as match. So Jase, won't you tee this one off, and Odette, we'll invite you to turn your video off. If you wanna come in on another topic, please, just message us. And, likewise, I say to others too who are on this conversation, if you'd like to say something, and I do see another comment or so, we'll give you permission. Just a moment. So, Jase, go ahead, start us off on this topic.

Jase Wilson: Yeah, Drew, thank you. I'm typing an answer. I got this weird thing where if I'm talking and typing, it's like I can't walk and chew gum and type and... Whatever they say. I can't do those things at the same time. So I'm typing it but I'm gonna try to say it, okay, so it'll be kinda slow. Please forgive me. To the question of under what circumstances, if any, should NTIA agree to waive matching fund requirements, we say they're probably great... They're probably valid circumstances, but it's important to remember the rationale of Match Capital in the first place, a private market/local funder endorsing the project in incense, backing it, putting capital at risk, with at-risk capital, whether it's through government funding, that's great that the governments are gonna be able to use our funds, really wonderful design on that to the people that got together and orchestrated that. But if they don't put... If somebody doesn't put some money up, it could be a shitty project. And forgive my language, but I just... I wanna be clear that once you take away the mechanism where somebody somewhere is gonna lose money. You remove the filter, as it stands, of good judgment, right?

Jase Wilson: And that's not to say like, well, it has to have match capital for it to be good, it just means that you could potentially let through a project that would otherwise maybe have been screened by whoever is staking up money that they might lose. So I'll try to put something in the comments along those lines.

Drew Clark: Yeah. No, please do. We do have a commenter, postgres Vivaldi, who wants to weigh in on the matching program. So postgres, feel free to turn your camera on and let's hear what you have to say. In addition, of course, anyone can be making comments on the document. That's what we're trying to do here.

postgres Vivaldi: I don't have a camera in this computer but...

Drew Clark: No problem.

postgres Vivaldi: I just mention two things. One is, based on the ARRA funding experience here in Puerto Rico, the money used on ARRA didn't produce anything because was basically not tied to some solution. And the lady that previously talked mentioned that tied to solutions, there are telemedicine, there are education... Remote education based on the problem that COVID had brought to the economy and to different states and every location that that funding is tied to solutions and solution that goes directly to the public, the infrastructure needed for schools to have adequate broadband for remote teaching, universities, expand telehealth, remote telehealth monitoring.

postgres Vivaldi: That will be the new way of life. COVID is here to stay and will create changes on our regular operations in business. Also business, if you want to develop some strategy for a small business to be able to connect and enter into the web to create e-commerce, they need infrastructure there to do it, and just leaving that to the infrastructure building and not to solution-related investment, that will create a problem. I also mentioned within the matching the federal regulations on the 2 CFR 200... I don't remember, it's the cost section. Allowed. If you receive more than one grant, federal grant, you can create a negotiated indirect cost rate agreement, and that number can be used as a matching unless it's specified within the opportunity. And usually NTIA allow the to be used as match so there is an alternative for that.

Drew Clark: postgres, when you say on your next... Your name SCORE, is that the Service Corps of Retired Executives in Puerto Rico?

postgres Vivaldi: Yes.

Drew Clark: Well, thank you for being on this call. It's great to have someone involved with that. You're a very important organization, and you are affiliated with the small... Are you affiliated with the Small Business Administration, or is it a separate... Completely separate from...

postgres Vivaldi: SCORE is a cooperative agreement with the SBA, but in Puerto Rico we work hand in hand. Also we work hand in hand with EDA in Puerto Rico.

Drew Clark: Right, Economic Development Administration.

postgres Vivaldi: Right. And we're doing some... Going to create a war room with the Office of the Governor to be able to promote economic development and a strategy that makes sense with the priorities of the federal government.

Drew Clark: Okay. Well, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to be with us and for chiming in. Is there anyone else who wants to address this question about matching funds? Again, I'm not tracking the comments and questions that are being made on the side because my window's blown up so we can all see quite well. But feel free in the chat window to message me or then comment to say you wanna be on camera. Otherwise, let's move to another very controversial question, number 12, which is what steps should NTIA take to ensure maximum use of American-made network components, and that supply sources are addressed in a way that create high quality jobs? And this is getting at this point about the Buy American requirement and how it will impact supply chain. This is something that is in the weeds, is detailed, but is very important because if products... And my understanding is that at least 55% of your project as defined needs to be made with American components. postgres, you have your hand raised. Go ahead and address this question, please.

postgres Vivaldi: Yes, it's Buy American, not Buy America. So there are two different ways. It is Buy America and Buy American, I don't recall. I think it's 55% of the... Need to be made. But more important that the Buy America is the Huawei exclusion, that you cannot have some communication products involved in any program that received federal funds. Let me see if I can get the Huawei ban exclusion section.

Drew Clark: Yeah, and pop it into the comments in the Google Doc, please. That's great. It's great to have a resource like you on this conversation. We're moving through. Like I said at the top, we're not gonna stop at 3:30, we'll keep going 3:45, even 4:00. But I want to hear from you. We wanna hear from you about particular items you have. Again, if you're in the chat window, or if you're on the page, the event page where you can make comments, you can make posts. I'm gonna move to question 15 here on speeds, which is, again, a very important question. In its efforts to ensure BEAD-funded networks can scale, NTIA wants to understand and forecast broadband infrastructure uses for the next five, 10, 20 years. It raises issues of speeds, throughputs, latencies. There was a prior dialogue on this page where Gary Bolton, the CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association, was highlighting these questions onward and its emphasis latency as really being push toward fiber. But, as you can see, this is a request for comments, so it's being phrased in a pretty open direction. Is there anyone who would like to weigh in on this? Or what kind of response would those who are on this call want to suggest if you were writing the answer to this question here?

Dave Todd: May I weigh in?

Drew Clark: Just identify yourself.

Dave Todd: Dave Todd.

Drew Clark: Alright. And Dave, feel free to turn your video on. Thank you for being with us here.

Dave Todd: Alright. My video is on now. Briefly on the previous one, I would like to deeply understand the American-made component, because the vast majority of the hardware and software is made outside the United States already. And in the case of upgrading folk, there's an awful lot of hardware that can be repurposed to provide better service, so I put some links for that in the chat. But to talk about the speed one, my principal goal in life is to try to get people to deeply understand that more bandwidth doesn't necessarily help. We have been showing in the BITAG for it in particular, that once you get above about 20 megabits, your typical web page doesn't load any faster. And we need to focus on providing quality video conferencing and VOIP services as well as being able to adequately share our networks at home. So there's a bunch of technologies that are out there, and it's my hope that in this document, it would point to various sundry IETS specifications as being useful to recommend that recipients of be implementing.

Drew Clark: Okay. Others who wanna comment on this verbally or visually, as well as whatever comments are being made on the document.

Jase Wilson: And Dave has the great point. Repurposing equipment, making sure we understand that even if something is labeled as made in America that its components, in many cases, aren't global supply chain. And I also think it's really important to balance the very admirable and patriotic objective of buying American-made goods with the reality that there's also the limiting of the market and limiting of the supplies is the surest way to drive up prices. And so if we're looking at funding less broadband. Is the goal to fund more broadband or is the goal to create the most number of jobs from the funding? Because they may be at odds. Because if you wanna actually extend the funding to include more... To connect more people to better broadband, the thought is you need to make it possible for awardees to go to the broadest possible marketplace and to make sure that there's true competition in the marketplace.

Jase Wilson: And there are some really wonderful American providers of equipment, of fiber, of all the wonderful stuff that goes into building great networks. But if it's given to the fact that you win 100 million bucks and it's super constrained on how you can spend it based on, again, the admirable objective of creating American jobs, well, you might end up having a far less impactful purchasing power. So we'll say something along those lines.

Drew Clark: Yeah. No, I totally get that point. And, again, this is an issue that's gonna live or die by the details, this Buy America or Buy American question, I need to get my mind straight on that difference there. I do see a comment made on the Google Doc. I've got another window open, I'm able to see it without... And it's by Christopher Ali. Thank you for being with us on this adventure here, Christopher, and congratulations on your recent wedding. You highlight here, it's useful, you look at the speed threshold set by Treasury and USDA, especially USDA ReConnect, which has been quite aggressive in their language. Yes, in fact, Broadband.Money is on top of this. We had two stories on this subject. It will have a third one of the ReConnect workshops that took place on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. And that struck me as well, that on Wednesday, they basically said, "You're gonna need to build 100 by 100... 100 megabit down, 100 megabit up with ReConnect funds, which is far, far more progressive, if you will, than the attitude they were taking even two or three years ago." The law, the reconnect law, says 10-1 is the minimum, but they're basically pushing for higher and higher. 100 times 100 is absolutely...

Drew Clark: So that's a vote for faster speeds, which I certainly think is very significant and very important, and we definitely want to hear that. But I wanna hear other comments too. So if others on this call or in this sharing of Google Doc want to talk, otherwise, we're happy to take those comments too. Let's move to prior builds, question 16. This is also a really potentially controversial question because it does talk about how long it can take their areas where an entity has made commitment to deploy service using its own funding, government or a combination of this too, but in which service has not yet been deployed. I would add, "Or even has been deployed, you promised to be deployed." I guess that's what it's getting at, is if an area has been served by RDOF. I guess part of the issue here is RDOF... RDOF awards, people could bid. They could bid one gigabit by one gigabit. They could bid 500 by 200. So this is really getting at the RDOF bids awarded but for which building hasn't taken place. The question they're asking is how should NTIA treat prior building commitments that are not reflected in the updated FCC maps? What risks should be mitigated in considering these areas as served? So I can think of a lot of things that should be said on this point. Is there anyone who would like to speak to this question on our discussion here today?

Drew Clark: Do you want to add anything on this, Jase?

Jase Wilson: No.

Drew Clark: No. Okay. I will just add that the law does not bar it. So now we're getting to the point where the law does not bar over building RDOF areas. That's the point I would make, and that's what I would make in my comment here. So when this says, "How should NTIA treat prior building commitments?" The risks that should be mitigated is we can't consider areas that are served with crappy broadband as being served. I would type that in if I weren't doing three other things at once, but that's the point I would bring to this discussion. And I think this is a very important and potentially contentious... Maybe not on this call. But let's move to question 17 on unserved areas.

Jase Wilson: Wait, I changed my mind. Hold on, Drew.

Drew Clark: Go for it.

Jase Wilson: You raised an interesting point, and we've been hearing this a lot. The idea that the agencies and departments teamed up and figured out that they wanna make RDOF award areas mutually exclusive with IIJA, meaning an area awarded RDOF shoots itself in the foot and doesn't get access to the money of IIJA. And anybody that is involved with that line of thinking or decision-making process, I wanna say my personal opinion of it, and this is not my professional affiliation opinion, this is just me as a guy that thinks that the money is supposed to connect more people to better broadband and faster. I personally think that is total horseshit to say a program that was already executed, already awarded, or is in the process of being distributed, right... Are you really trying to connect more people to better broadband sooner? If you say, "Oh yeah, areas that accept the RDOF funding cannot get their IIJA." That's crazy, right. The money... The bucket of money that went into RDOF, it's earmarked for that, it's already spent on that, right? It's not like we printed something in trillions of dollars, it's a drop in the bucket.

Jase Wilson: What's your real motive if you think that that should be the case? Are you just angry at certain winners won RDOF? Are you worried about competition? But I would love to hear somebody defends the opposite, 'cause I know that I'm wrong most of the time. But it's just... In this case, are we trying to connect people to better broadband faster? If so, award the fricking money and don't make some mutually exclusive thing. It's stupid.

Drew Clark: We had a really interesting discussion of this, Jase, in our Broadband Breakfast for Lunch event nine days ago, where we had the executives from WISPA, from ACA Connects and from INCOMPAS, Chip Pickering. And this discussion, this point came up about over-building. And I think maybe driven a little by me and my questioning, but Chip Pickering was certainly on board this way of thinking, which is that it isn't... There shouldn't be called over-building as a pejorative, it should be new building. If there's a 25-5 network or something that just barely meets the threshold of broadband as lamely defined right now by the FCC, then go ahead and over-build it. And go ahead and apply for the money yourself to build a fiber network to over-build yourself. And there was definitely some interesting talk among Claude Aiken on this point and Matt Polka on this point. So I think that's where the gunk conversation needs to be is, get busy over-building yourself rather than blocking someone else's over building of you, right? .

Jase Wilson: Nice.

Drew Clark: Alright. I do see some discussion. Thank you for these points. This is what... I moved to the left so we can see more of these comments in the screen that I'm sharing. At least I think I'm sharing. I got multiple screens going on. Let's move to these last ones, okay. And, again, there's many anymore we could talk about. If you want to talk about something else, message myself or put it on the chat. In fact, there's actually a message on the chat screen I wanted to raise. This is someone I see on the call, David Todd. "I would like all of us, no matter what technologies are deployed, to focus on reducing working latencies and jitter," and then you reference a couple of documents by the BITAG. I think that's a technical working group. Dave, would you care to come on camera and explain a little bit about this?

Dave Todd: In the Question number 22 or...

Drew Clark: Oh no, I was pausing before we dived into question 22 to address your comment you made on the event page for this event.

Dave Todd: So BITAG is a industry group that is part of most of the major cable companies. So you might wanna look at some of that stuff with a little bit of cynicism. However, I think it's the really, truly honest attempt by the engineers there to pass along the knowledge in the hope that you guys get newer people in this field. Get it right. So it's my hope that everyone trying to get into these programs will also realize it is possible to take the internet a giant leap forward when applying new gear. And particularly in light of the COVID crisis and the importance of video conferencing, it's important to get this kind of stuff right. Aside from that, it's a 50-page report. I don't know how to say but dig in and read that one technically. Is that sufficient for you, Drew?

Drew Clark: Oh, absolutely. I just, like I said, pause to look at the comments we've got. We've got some great comments. The way we normally do these Ask Me Anything events... And by the way, we're gonna do another one next Wednesday... Next Friday, excuse me, a week from today, with Ben Bawtree-Jobson, the CEO of SiFi Networks. That will be a very exciting event that Sarah Lai Stirland will be hosting. And the conversation, those is driven by these comments, and I just shared in the chat stream the link to that. So not everyone can tune in, we understand that, so we wanna continue on two fronts, the discussions and comments on this page, but also this document that we've been focusing on here today. And so... In fact, I do see a comment here that has been raised. Let's actually go for this comment by postgres Vivaldi, question 32. So let's jump the queue to Middle Mile in low-income areas. I'm gonna pull down to that, 32. "The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires states and territories to coordinate with local governments and other political subdivisions in developing state digital equity plans. What steps should states take to fulfill this mandate?" And this is linking Middle Mile to digital equity.

Drew Clark: And so postgres Vivaldi, do you wanna speak to this point? You note here how you must define better what Middle Mile and Last Mile specs since American Recovery and Reinvestment Act definition. That's the old law of 13 years ago, allowed to trick answers. Could you elaborate on that a little bit if you're still with us, postgres? Feel free to unmute yourself.

Drew Clark: I see him on the call. But if you're not available, postgres, we understand. Thank you for this comment. Let us know if you want to address and we'll come back to you. Let's just stick on this topic here about Middle Mile. That was question 32. You know what? I read the wrong question. I read question 31. Bad me. Bad on me. Here's question 32. "Middle Mile infrastructure is essential to American connectivity. Lack of affordable Middle Mile access can have substantial impact on retail prices. How should the assistant secretary, that's Alan Davidson, the new administrator of NTIA and secretary of... And Assistant Secretary of Commerce, how should he ensure that Middle Mile investments are appropriately targeted to areas where Middle Mile service is non-existent or relatively expensive?" That is a great question. And, again, let me just give everyone a chance who would like to address that, to weigh in. postgres, if you'd like to, or anyone else?

Drew Clark: I haven't looked as much at the Middle Mile section as I have at the rest of it. Christopher Lee has just noted something here. "Forgive the hot take, but every state needs to establish a well-staffed broadband office. Otherwise, they the either risks missing out on the funding outside of the guaranteed 100 million or may not be able to adequately review the applicants."

Drew Clark: Great point. It's, in some ways, maybe a little obvious, but it's worth re-stating that there's 42.5 billion... Do the math, 100 million times 50... 100 million times 50 is 5 billion. So I can do math, I think I got that right. So that's still... That's not even... That's barely 10% of the total amount. There's a lot of room for getting far more than $100 million. If your state broadband... If your state does not have a broadband office to this up to the task, they are going to be behind. And this is something that we've talked about in other Ask Me Anything events. We certainly talked about quite a bit at Broadband Breakfast as well, and we have a way to interact with, coordinate with state broadband officials so that we can help up the game of every state official. Jase, do you wanna weight in on these topics here? I'm gonna do go back to the top and check and see what we wanna focus our last 15 minutes or so on here.

Jase Wilson: Yeah. I don't wanna keep holding the call. I'd love... Anybody else have anything you wanna suggest or we pay attention to on this call? And then I also have a question for folks. Is this helpful? Is this process useful to you, or do you see that it could be useful to the ongoing discussion and dialogue written into a collaborative doc and it gets handed to the NIA? Do you find value in this? I'd love some feedback on it and make sure. 'Cause if so, we're gonna organize a few more of these sessions.

Drew Clark: Yeah. We could ask people. We could send a poll out here. We do have obviously a number of... We do have a number of viewers. Let's let Ben, if you don't mind, go ahead and see if you can tinker around with that, and let's try to get a poll of those who are on our Zoom call here. Again, we know many people... Many of you are on the Google Doc, you're watching on Broadband.Money, which is great. So feel free to weigh in in any place you'd like. Christopher Lee notes that only 26 states have broadband offices. I'm not... I know that was the historic number, but I think that number has been raised. So I would wanna double-check, Christopher, for sure but...

Jase Wilson: It should be 50s. He's got a really good point there.

Drew Clark: Absolutely.

Jase Wilson: Fifty-five with the territories and such, but it's... That's crazy. Even recently, there's 26. It's 2020... Now, it's 2022, right? If your state isn't... If your state isn't taking this seriously, what's going on?

Drew Clark: Yeah. No, I think more and more states are, right? And the question that Odette Wilkens has raised is that, does New York State have a broadband office? Yes, it does, and I'd be happy to follow up with you, connect you to the...

Jase Wilson: And they're hiring.

Drew Clark: [chuckle] And they're hiring. So let's take a couple of... Again, we don't... We've deliberately set this up to go longer than an hour here. We're gonna be on question 22 and 23 for a little bit. I wanna address this issue of low-cost options and low-cost plans because they are important, and I haven't perhaps given as much attention my questions up there to these issues of digital equity. So we wanna talk a little bit about this here for five to 10 minutes. On question 22, "The law requires that the 42.5 billion BEAD program offer at least one low-cost broadband option and directs NTIA to determine which subscribers are eligible for that low-cost option." So it's basically saying, how should we define that term, eligible subscribers? So I'm gonna pair this with question 23 which is about the NTIA, "What factor should the NTIA consider in guiding the states in their design of these programs to achieve this goal?" So these are very important.

Drew Clark: We do have a note from Cory Hayes, "How can we find out if our home state has a broadband office?" Well, the simplest and easiest way is to go to Broadband.Money and go to the state directory. If... Then if you want to put that in the chat window for everyone, please do. He'll do that so you can get it. And we will, of course, also post it on the page for this event. So Jase has beaten us all to it. There we go. Thank you, Jase. State broadband offices. We also have stories, narratives about every state and what's going on with broadband. So feel free to look at those resources including numbers, okay. So that's addressed to Odette's point earlier. The contacts for New York State will be there. The contacts for all states and territories are right up for there on Broadband.Money, your resource for finding and connecting to these grants. So back to 22 and 23, who has some thoughts on factors that the NTIA should consider in the definition of eligible subscriber and of low-cost broadband option? Does anyone like to weigh in on this?

Drew Clark: This is a very important component of the process. Again, it gets really into the weeds of the bill and the law. I think it's basically... As I read and think about the IIJA Law, Jase, I sort of see this as a way that states can make sure they're not necessarily limiting their grants to rural areas. It's because it's a way to make sure that there are good low-cost options going everywhere, right?

Jase Wilson: Low-cost is key. I don't remember the specifics, but I heard from... Anecdotally, somebody was citing... This has got nothing to do with this but it's something like three or four times more... It was three to four times more likely that a family that needs broadband couldn't afford it versus it wasn't available. So I hope they're really expansive with that program, and I know there's a lot of debugging to do with ACP, and they've learned a ton, I think, from how everything shaped up with EBB. So we also created a system that if you're an ISP and you need to incorporate ACP, you can do that. The turn key check out so that your subscriber can just go round trip to USAC website by API, and it's all sort of white label contained under your brand. So we see it as something that, yeah, it's a pain to do all that stuff, but at the same time, it's more painful to think that you could be serving somebody that needs the service and they don't have it in their budget.

Drew Clark: Yeah. Odette Wilkens, did you want to weigh in on this point? Feel free to turn your video on or just speak via voice, if you prefer.

Odette Wilkens: Hi. Yeah, I think that in terms of providing a low cost alternative, I think that we really need to look at the underprivileged and poor communities as well as people who are disabled. So the people who are disabled, not just in terms of what we would think normally of disabilities, but we also need to think in terms of people who need alternatives to wireless like fiber optics, wired connections because they have radiation sickness, they have radiation sickness, and many of them tend to also be poor, coincidentally. And I think that we need to provide not just low-cost options, we have... Not just in terms of monies, but in terms of the type of connectivity that we're providing them with. It needs to include fiber and wired options. And so the low-cost broadband option should be not just limited to wireless, but also to fiber to the premises.

Drew Clark: Okay, great. Great point. Thank you for weighing in on that.

Jase Wilson: Great point. Wow. Yeah. Odette, I hope you add that stuff into the document directly. That's really... She got some really powerful stuff there in your noggin. I had a friend whose mom had that. This poor woman had basically like... Lived in a Faraday cage. But you're so right. You can't just... You can't... You can't just assume that somebody can have Wi-Fi and that's good enough. You do... You're right.

Odette Wilkens: Yeah. There are actually probably millions of people who are suffering from that, and I know people personally and represented them personally. And it goes across the gamut from elderly, and I can't even tell you how badly this poor elderly woman is suffering to children, and it has produced some very grave results. So we want to provide a great technological alternative for people to have broadband capacity, but something that is safe for people because not everyone can tolerate the wireless radiation. And 5G and upwards is going to get... It's going to get more and more powerful and people are just not able to withstand that. And more and more people are becoming sensitive in it, but it's just a great thing to keep in mind.

Jase Wilson: Right. So let's definitely, in this process and in the document, highlight this and promote this, 'cause I feel like this is an awareness challenge. It's like they're millions, right, but then most people don't know that that even exists. And so it probably... If somebody's sitting down to, it's like, "Yeah, wireless is good enough if it's affordable." That's always gonna be true. They might not know that this condition exists, and there probably are other kinds of things like that, like this condition. So let's definitely pinpoint this issue in our response to... On this topic, Odette. Thank you.

Odette Wilkens: Sure.

Drew Clark: Yes, thank you for that. Let's move to... This is the last of the points that I had highlighted above, 34 on splice points, right, which it sounds arcane. But actually there's a number of questions about very important which is on pole attachments and access to ducts and rights of away. These are crucial, crucial questions for getting higher capacity broadband networks, fiber networks, as well as wireless networks, but fiber is what we're talking about right here. What requirements should NTIA impose on federally funded Middle Mile projects regarding placement of splice points and access to those splice points? And so this is a... Somebody's kind of going beyond even the rule that was imposed in the Recovery Act of 2009, which put $7.2 billion in the hands of a number of participants. And those were mostly... Those funds mostly went to Middle Mile projects and there was a open access requirement on those Middle Mile networks. And so this is not necessarily using... I don't think the word open access appears in the... Our request for comments. But this is a maybe a backdoor way to get at that, I.e, could someone... Couldn't I impose a requirement that the Middle Mile grantee must allow interconnection?

Drew Clark: So that's a... That's a point I wanted to flag for everyone. We welcome your comments on... We do have one here, Sabrina Roach, in the document says, "In Washington State, we're currently determining this," and I'm not sure what this is referring to, "while we work out HB 1723. It references the Self-Sufficiency Standard created by the University of Washington." This must be under the Buy American language. No, it's under the low-cost broadband. Okay, thank you. Sabrina, I'm not sure if you're on our call. I don't see you on our discussion. But thank you, if you are listening to it for making these points here and putting them in the document. This is really great to get all of these comments in. This is wonderful. We know we put you as commenters 'cause we didn't want people going in deleting everything, but we hope you'll take advantage of that. And you can still add things in as a comment or like a proposal, a proposed language. And Jase, do you wanna just speak a little bit to how this document kind of lives and moves forward as we move up to February 4th?

Jase Wilson: Yeah. It's gonna stay open. And, according to this poll, 54% of you think that this is useful, and 0% have said that it's not useful. So let's do another follow-up session, Drew. Let's... What do you think of that? We've got some really great upcoming Ask Me Anythings. We haven't scheduled all of them on the calendar yet, but stay tuned, there's gonna be a few posted over the next week. But let's figure out if we could maybe every other Friday that it's not an Ask Me Anything with wonderful guests that we're working with. Let's do at least one more of these sessions and then ask again, is it useful, and if so, we'll do a third, okay? So we'll do a session, but it's also... You don't have to be at the event to do this process. The beauty of the asynchronous workflow that is created by, first and foremost, an internet connection, and then all the wonderful brains at Google and their docs team. That process is something that you can do whenever you have time, and come in and weigh in and... I do suggest at the top that folks that wanna contribute to a... We would love to acknowledge you and your contribution if you want to be acknowledged. If you don't want to, that's fine. You can just sort of weigh in and do it. But if you do wanna be part of that... The contributor section, just weigh in with a comment up there with your LinkedIn, and we'll get you in there, for sure. So thank you everybody for...

Drew Clark: Let me just... Let me say just a couple of closing things, if that's okay here before we wrap. I wanna just highlight a great comment that I didn't see made about 20 minutes ago, 30 minutes ago by Dan Grossman about the... This is about the Made in America question, and he says... The first half of this question is somewhat moot because almost all fiber optic cables deployed in the US will be US manufactured because of the cost of shipping. So that's great point, a great point that... I wouldn't wanna vouch for this until I have a chance to review and think about this and analyze it, but I think that's kind of good thinking to get at here. And I see these questions that you've made in here, thank you for all of you. And, again, just like Jase said, we wanna keep this open as a way for you to share and comment. And anyone who signs up on this page... I'm gonna send this in the window one last time. This is the URL for the meeting. The video will live here. The document will live here. Just register for this event and we'll make sure you have access to this document.

Drew Clark: It's been a really great pleasure to prepare for this and to have this. Obviously, there's so much that's going on on Broadband.Money. We encourage you to if... You, obviously, are because you're here. But to share with others that you think would be interested in the content and resources and events happening on Broadband.Money to make sure to sign up. And I wanna thank all of you who have been with us. Jase, do you have any closing thoughts for us? Alright.

Jase Wilson: No. Thanks. Happy Friday.

Drew Clark: Take care. Have a great weekend.

Jase Wilson: See you all.

Drew Clark: Bye.