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NTIA's Alan Davidson's Keynote Address @ Mountain Connect 2022

NTIA's Alan Davidson's Keynote Address @ Mountain Connect 2022 Banner Image

May 24, 2022

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We’re excited to welcome Alan Davidson, NTIA Administrator, as Mountain Connect 2022’s Keynote Presenter. 

The Mountain Connect 2022 conference takes place near the largest single-day event in the history of the broadband industry. Soon, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will release its Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs) for programs totaling nearly $50 billion of new broadband grants aimed at ending America’s digital canyon once and for all.

NTIA’s programs will unleash more broadband funding over the next few years than all prior U.S. broadband funding programs combined. In the right hands, such resources could kick off nothing short of a new chapter in American dynamism. NTIA’s historic announcement is the “starting gun” for states, local governments, and network builders. 

Join Alan in a lively discussion with Broadband Breakfast’s Drew Clark. Hear Alan's vision for success in the upcoming programs, as well as how the NTIA will work with states and local governments to bring ubiquitous, affordable 21st century access to all corners of America. 
Get the latest updates, along with ways that states, communities, and providers should think about the upcoming programs, including public / private partnerships to make the most of our historic public investment.

Welcome to Mountain Connect 2022

Jase Wilson: If you’re here, your work connects more families and businesses to better broadband. Thank you for doing that. And for making time for Mountain Connect 2022. Thank you Jeff Gavlinski, who’s convened this gathering for 12 years now as a way of giving back to an industry that’s given him so much, and to Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide author and Jeff’s co-organizer, for getting this year’s special gathering ready. And to both for letting me wear a trucker hat in front of broadband’s best and brightest against their professional advice.

Welcome to the post-NOFO glow. 

Days since NTIA dropped the most impactful document in the history of broadband.

Months before our nation’s largest ever broadband investment starts flowing to states.

One thing to know: everything about the last mile just changed.

There will be winners and there will be losers. 

From the looks of it, incumbent monopolies should be worried. With tools like local coordination, and a challenge process that works for communities, the NTIA built a powerful toolkit for local partnerships willing and able to get their share of billions for broadband. 

Broadband.money is honored to present this year’s conference keynote, Alan Davidson, NTIA’s Head.
It’s hard to picture a better person to address this room of broadband’s top builders, policymakers, advocates, and investors. As a nation we’re lucky Alan helms the hardworking NTIA as they work with states to smartly, quickly put tens of billions of dollars into solving our nation’s digital canyon once and for all. He knows cross-sector collaboration maximizes return on public investment. He’s unafraid of the Administration’s 100% access mandate. The NOFO shows he intends to get the job done. Alan’s fireside chat will be hosted by Broadband Breakfast’s Drew Clark, who works towards his mantra of better broadband, better lives, and is an all around great dude.

For providers and communities who want to get a head start on competition, here's a quick preview of the BEAD grants start page that just launched. 

Tools to see where grants might go, to influence where they should go, to get going on effective local partnerships and matching funds, and to see the hard things you’ll need in your quest for grants. 

The simplest way to apply for and win your share of BEAD. 

To see your territory in all new light with collaborators and community partners.

In BEAD, you need proof of match capital with your application. 

Broadband.money helps you line up funding sources, so you don't waste time in scores of conversations or find out too late you don't have this key ingredient. Our job at Broadband.money is to help local broadband win. Our job at Broadband.money is to help local broadband win. Community networks, Coops, Mom & Pops, Tribes, all should team up with the communities they serve and rise up To get their share.
Each of Broadband.money’s 650 applicants is unique, though share one goal: connect more people to better broadband.

While some wait on FCC’s fabric softener, others are getting ready now. Do your own research. See your area in all new light. Build thoughtful, well-composed, compliant application models, not static pdfs. With many stakeholders in a collaborative environment, iterate together toward the best outcomes. Optimize capital with public and private stakeholders on one page. Answer questions once, not dozens of times.

Broadband.money automates Ongoing Monitoring, Reporting, and Performance Management, so you can focus better on serving more subscribers while complying with NTIA, state, and local guidelines. Even Turnkey ACP, so you can deliver seamless experience for families in need.

We built Broadband.money to help make the most of our historic public investment. The start page for local partnerships to get their share. The simplest way to Get Ready.

Find your path ahead at Broadband.money, and stop by for demos and ice cream this afternoon.

Alan knows every American deserves a chance.

That, in this remote era, access for all is the bedrock of liberty and justice for all. To build the America that poet laureate and future POTUS Amanda Gorman called “benevolent but bold, fierce, and free…". In her words, we must…

"…lift our gazes not to what stands between us

but what stands before us

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside."

None of this is about billions for broadband.

It's about connecting real people to better lives.

Thank you again ladies and gentleman.

Please welcome Alan Davidson and Drew Clark.

Fireside Chat with Alan Davidson, hosted by Drew Clark

Drew: Alan, welcome. It's so exciting to be here outside of the sweltering heat of Washington. 

Alan: It's definitely outside. 

Drew: And into the snow of Colorado. Alan, I understand you wanted to say a couple of words as a welcome to Colorado and to our audience here at Mountain Connect.

Alan: Well, thank you. Thank you, Drew, and thank you Mountain Connect for having us, for hosting this event, for getting this crowd together, and for inviting me to speak here. I'll say this is my first, I think, real major public appearance since our big announcement less than two weeks ago at the Department of Commerce at NTIA, launching our Internet for All initiative, and we're $48 billion in funding to connect everybody in America.

Alan: I will just say, we've been talking about the digital divide in this country for over 20 years. Finally, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the leadership of a lot of folks in the House and Senate, you heard Senator Bennet a little while ago and President Biden. We have the resources to really make structural change, to really address this mission of closing the digital divide, and that's pretty exciting. So we're very excited at NTIA to be launching this program, to be doing this work. We've been grateful for the response so far, like I say, it's been about two weeks. We've heard a lot from stakeholders, we've heard a lot from communities, we've heard from the provider community, which we very much know we wanna engage with, need to engage with, who are gonna actually build this, and we've heard from industry, we've heard from a lot of folks, and it's going to take a lot of folks, if we're gonna meet this mission, the mission of connecting everybody in America and closing the digital divide.

Alan: I will say a key part of this for us is working with states, the bulk of the money that we're giving out, about $42 billion of it goes to a state grant program, money will go to the states, the states will do the grant-making. The starting point for this is the states have to submit letters of intent, indicate their interest, so far less than a week into the program... Well, I guess a little bit more, we're now... We've got 25 states and territories signed up, which is great, and so we're... The last thing I'll just say is that's gonna be a critical part of this, and we need people's help to connect, to push the states to engage. So we've got 25 states engaged, 35 states who've signed up and said that they're gonna be in here, states and territories.

Alan: And so this is a big deal for us. The last thing I'll just say is, for us, this is part of a big mission, and I know a lot of you care about this too. Generations before us brought water, brought electricity to rural America, built the Interstate Highway system. We really feel that this is this generation's infrastructure project to build. Our infrastructure project to build is connecting everybody with the digital world, and I really believe that when we look back 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we will see this as a moment where our generation stepped up in the way that prior generations did and worked to make sure that everybody had access and the ability to thrive in the new modern economy that we're building. So I'm super excited to be here with you all and thank you, Drew.

Drew: Well we can just applaud and go home, that's a...

Alan: There you go.

[applause]

Drew: No, that is important, important to start with that end goal in mind. Where do we wanna be, how do we wanna have seen this program looking in the rear view mirror? And when we were last together, Alan, at Broadband Breakfast through lunch, you said that we're not, the Biden administration is not gonna be happy until every American has 100 megabits down and 20 megabits up broadband, which is the underserved definition in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. And whenever I have a chance to interview someone like you, Alan, the big question is, okay, big picture or details. Big picture or details, and we talked a lot, and I'm sure we will talk some more about big picture, but there's a lot of people here who wanna know some of those details. So I do wanna drill in a little bit to that, and let me just start off with what you said just now that 25 states have submitted their letter of intent, 34 or 35 have said they're going to submit their letters of intent. What about that remaining 15? I know it's only been less than two weeks, but are there any states out there that are not ramping and rushing to put in the paperwork to get part of this program?

Alan: So I say, just to a starting point, our goal is every state in every territory. Our mission, the mission that we've been given is to make sure that everybody in America has the ability to connect to high speed, affordable internet access. We can only do that if we've got every state and territory on board, so this launch that we had two weeks ago is really just the starting gun for us. It's launching these programs and now the key is to get the states on board. We're very pleased, honestly. This was better than we thought it would be, to be honest, I think. And there's some paperwork involved, there are states that have to figure out who their person is and how they do this letter of intent. We've got a... Hopefully, we've tried to make it super easy for them.

Alan: We know that there are some states that are further along than other states. We just heard from your state broadband leader here in Colorado, folks, who's great. And we're not worried about Colorado, but we know that there are other states that are further behind, and we're gonna be working with them, so probably the biggest and most important thing that we've been doing within NTIA is staffing up to support the states and to work with the states. So we've built out a state team within NTIA. We're going to have a person assigned to each state. Every state will know who they can call in Federal government at NTIA to make sure that they are doing what they need to do. And there's somebody who's gonna wake up every day and think, how do I make sure Colorado succeeds? How do I make sure Montana succeeds, etcetera. And so we are gonna be pushing. They have till July 18th, we've got time. But this was really the starting gun, and so far we're out of the gate strong.

Drew: So May 13th was the kickoff and you also unveiled a new website, Internet for All. Right, and that... Is that designed to be the means for communicating with states or is that more like a public outreach or is it trying to do both?

Alan: It's a little both, and we're hoping it is a public-facing... It's designed to talk to, speak to different audiences. It'll be a place where there are a lot of resources, links to webinars, places to get technical assistance, guidance as we put it up. Connections to other programs in the federal government, because it's not just the programs that we're administering that are going to matter, and we're trying to have a one-stop where people can go look just like the tool that we just saw. It was terrific by the way. I do think that there will be a lot of deep direct connection to states... We're building. We're using technology, we've got a Salesforce platform over share the details that states will sign up, there will be ways we're using modern customer management technology to make sure that we're keeping in touch with states, not just on this one program that we're talking about, the BEAD program the state grant program, but all the other programs that we're connecting with them on.

Drew: So again, high level, the BEAD program, Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program is the $42.5 billion. We'll talk mostly about that, but you also kind of ahead of when you needed to kicked out the middle mile Notice of Funding Opportunity and the Digital Equity Act Notice of Funding Opportunity, and you have all those on that Internet for All website and you're doing the webinars and at Broadband Breakfast and Broadband.Money, we've been covering those, focusing on those, making sure that all that information is out there. So to drill into the BEAD program, there's a lot of concern that I've been hearing about, it's gonna take a long time for this money to get out there because of you gotta get the five-year plans in, the states have to have their approvals. Could you just walk us through a little bit of the timelines and this concern that it's gonna take 12, 15, 18 months for the first money to be out there.

Alan: Right. Well, I think there's a tension between our strong desire to get money out there quickly, but also our felt need, absolutely, to do this right. And I think you see that reflected in the law as it was passed. There's a very clear timeline, a structure that's built into the law that says, how we're supposed to do this, and it starts with good maps, and if the process is very clear. The FCC is working on mapping, and we need to follow those maps, and we will use those maps for our allocation of funding among the states, and ultimately for states to decide where they're gonna spend their money themselves. The good news is, it's not like we just have to wait for this and there's nothing else happening. As I said, this is sort of the starting gun for us on a number of programs, we're launching a middle mile program, that middle mile program will... That grant-making is gonna happen much more quickly, it's gonna start this year, where we're gonna be starting to accept grant applications, you'll be hearing more about that, and it's actually... Whether by accident or by design. It's the right approach, right? We'll be doing our middle mile work first that will then hopefully be of the idea is that's a force multiplier for our last mile work that we'll be funding through BEAD.

Alan: You'll see Digital Equity planning grants rolling out. We have a set of other monies from other places from prior bills, including tribal funding that you're gonna see are connecting minority communities grants, so there's a lot of grant-making that you will see even in the short run, and there are other parts of the government... The FCC has got it, RDOF, Rural Development Fund, Treasury will get it funded. We're trying to pull these things all together, so even as we are waiting to make sure we do the state grant, that big state grant program the right way, you'll see a lot of other money going out the door.

Drew: And that's a great point, connecting these other grants, making sure, they are part of a, part and parcel of the process. Let's talk a little bit about the state role and how much... This is... That's something we talked about a month ago, how much flexibility states would have. So what's your view of how you came out? Do you feel states have enough flexibility, or do they really need to kind of harken to all these rules that you've laid out?

Alan: Well, again, the starting point for us was the idea that not every state is built the same way, that the needs of different states are going to be different. We know that the needs of Rhode Island are really different than the needs of Colorado or Montana, or Alaska. And so we wanted to make sure we're building in a lot of flexibility in this for the states to meet the bare needs. At the same time, we did feel like there was a baseline of rules. If we're spending $42 billion of Federal money, you can be sure we need to make sure there's some real accountability there. There are real requirements on sub-grantees. We also have certain values that Congress put into the statute. We wanna welcome new entrants and make sure that there's... That new entrants are able to join. We care about affordability. So you see in the NOFO some basic requirements. We love flexibility in there for states to meet these requirements in different ways, and so we do expect that states will take... Different states will take different approaches, but there are some baseline values that are in there that we're gonna expect from everybody.

Drew: And let's talk a little bit about that. What is the baseline value of affordability? How does that get reflected in the NOFO?

Alan: That's great... So I think from the beginning, we have recognized that affordability is a key part of that. The President himself talked about this just even two weeks in the Rose Garden.

Drew: Right, with that announcement that all of these companies are going to be part of the Affordable Connectivity Program. And what else, Alan?

Alan: Exactly, well, right, and I think just speaking to the notion that affordability is a key piece of this, you can't... We could have a connection going past somebody's house, that doesn't do them any good if they can't afford it to get online, right? So this has been a... Congress recognized this, the President recognized this in the announcements that we made, we made clear, and particularly in this BEAD program, probably three different things. One, every provider has gotta have a low-cost option. States will define that differently. We gave some examples in the NOFO of what that could look like, but there has to be a low-cost option for low-income Americans. We also say that states have to demonstrate approach to affordability, so how are we gonna make sure that there's affordability built into these plans in other ways? And the last is we made affordability a key part of the prioritization criteria that states need to use when they do competitive grant-making. So there are a bunch of different criteria that states are required to use, but we wanted to make sure that affordability was part of it, so that making that... That When grants are made, there's an eye towards not just cost to the government, but also making sure that long-term there'll be a guarantee of some affordability.

Drew: Well, on the other hand of this, good rules and good prescriptions, you have the sense of overly prescription or overly rights, there are people who are saying there's a lot of rules this NOFO... Let me just highlight one, the letter of credit requirement, many people say that that's an unnecessary imposition to put in there... What's your response to that Alan?

Alan: Well, we did look at some of our past experience and grant-making, looked up with how others do... I think part of the issue... And here, again, it comes back to, we want flexibility, we wanna welcome new entrants, but we also need to make sure that federal money is being spent wisely, and we have heard stories in the past and had experiences in the past where it hasn't been... So we are here to make sure that there's gonna be proper oversight and accountability, we're very open-minded about feedback here, if we've gone in some direction here that this is not the end of the... This is not the end of the story, right? So if there are particular requirements that we've put in that folks find to be particularly problematic, we wanna hear that, but I will say there was a lot of work that went into those requirements, and I will say we pushed ourselves to make sure that we were making things as easy and as friendly to new entrants as possible while making sure that we're taking care of tax payer dollars.

Drew: When you say it's not the end of the story, what does that mean? This is a final rule, is it not?

Alan: This is the... First, this is our notice of funding, and it basically lays out the basic requirements, there are a lot of things that are not included in here, we actually made it... For those who've looked at these documents, they're like 50, 100-page documents, they're long documents, they've got a lot of federal bureaucratic language in them, and so this will sound funny, but we actually tried to make them as short as we could. And we did that but...

Drew: Below 100 pages, 98 pages is not...

Alan: 98 pages... Below 100 pages. I'd love to say we had hoped it would be shorter, but there's a lot that... There was a lot to say. Even so we tried to take the principle of if it didn't need to be in this notice it's not there. Right, and so we've... There are other issues, supply chain issues, workforce issues, where we will be offering future guidance and also looking for future input on them, and so not everything is in this notice, so we anticipate an ongoing process of technical assistance with states, with providers, with communities. We expect that there will be further guidance that's gonna come out on some of these issues...

Drew: Okay. Can you address another specific one, will it require congressional action to prevent the IIJA funds from being taxable income to commercial grantees? How do you see this issue resolving itself.

Alan: That is a big issue, we know that this is a big issue for providers, for everybody. We would like to make sure that these dollars, from our own selfish point of view, of trying... Our mission is to connect everybody. And somehow, $42 billion doesn't go as far as it used to. I don't know... [chuckle] We wanna make sure it goes as far as I can, and so we're keenly aware of this issue about taxation, I would just say it's an issue of ongoing conversation within the administration, it's not something that would be addressed in these notices, but I'll just say that's an area where you could expect to hear and see more, there's a lot of energy going into it.

Drew: What about Buy American provisions? Obviously, there is a law on this subject, but there's also a waiver process, so could you just talk about the balance there when it's just gonna be hard to get 55% of your fiber made in the United States.

Alan: Right. So that's another great example of an area where you can expect to see future guidance more interest, there are very clear buy America provisions in the statute, we acknowledge them. I will just say, We have to... We will be following those requirements, and part of that is for a very good reason, which is part of the hope of a statute like this, of an initiative like this, is to promote jobs in America, to promote manufacturing in America. And I think Congress very intentionally put those provisions in there to do that, I think Senator Bennet alluded to that as well, at the same time, we've clear-eyed about the challenges that are gonna be ahead, we've heard about them from many providers, we know that it's hard, the telecommunications networks are going to be... Presents unique challenges in this. And so all I could say is We're gonna be following these provisions, the provisions allow for waivers, the bar will be high on those waivers, but we expect that there will be waivers.

Drew: But we certainly wanna get good questions, we're gonna turn to the audience here and we also have online questions, have been asking some of those, and if you have other questions... And when I ask please do so, but Alan let's come back to this core issue of the technologies that are gonna be used and how they're gonna be deployed to reach certain areas, so obviously there's areas of the country that meet the... Let's put it the other way, they do not meet the third served threshold that are not 25 by three and those are obviously crucial areas, but you also seem to, in the NOFO give a similar treatment to the 100 by 20 areas, the underserved varies. Could you just talk a little bit more, and obviously, we started this conversation some weeks ago about how a project is going to incorporate areas that may have a small Cable provision, cable plan that might meet the serve definition, but doesn't meet the underserved definition. How is that gonna roll out, how do you see a kind of a project coming in and meeting these definitions.

Alan: I'm not sure that we treat these classes of projects exactly the same, I mean, the statute, again, that we've been given, the law that Congress pass is pretty clear, it's focused on making sure that the unserved defined as those under 25/3 are addressed first. Right, and then for states who can show that they've addressed that they can use the money to address the underserved those under 100/3, and then there's other opportunities to use the money for community anchor institutions, other non-deployment activities. I think that the way we've written this is designed to show that, yes, the priority has to be... Continues to be making sure that we serve all of the unserved first, but we recognize the practicalities of this for a state that's doing a grant-making process and for states that can show that can demonstrate in their plans that they are easily going to reach... That they are going to reach all the unserved, they can in their grant-making, do grant-making for the underserved as well, and if we feel that we've been satisfied that they... So there's not a temporal requirement, you don't have to do all the unserved, then when you're done with all the unserved years later, go to the underserved.

Drew: That is a great point, Alan, and just to underscore that, because I think sometimes Congress gets this mindset, "Oh no, everything is gonna get done 25/3 and then we... But you're basically saying, doesn't need to be in that time period. You can have a plan that covers everyone that doesn't meet the underserved definition.

Alan: Absolutely, and I think, again, we're just trying to be really pragmatic about how this is gonna roll out and how we can make it roll out effectively and well for states, and so... Yes, the notion that we would do all the grant-making and build out all of the 25/3 unserved and then come back years later and do the underserved, just did not seem practical or the intent of Congress, so I think the statute is pretty clear for... The states need to demonstrate and we will hold them to this, that they're gonna reach all the unserved, but we know are modeling, we know... We expect that there'll be a plenty of states that are gonna with the money they've been given, have no trouble reaching all the unserved, and so we wanna make sure we give them the opportunity to do these other things, including reaching out the underserved. And the other thing is, we know that for providers, practically speaking, we want them to be able to have economically effective projects, projects that are gonna survive economically over time, and for many of them that will mean serving unserved and underserved together. As long as there's demonstrated, we know that Unserved is met. We will allow states to move forward with those plans.

Drew: Well, I have more questions, but I don't wanna hog the time... Our host for the event, Jeff Gavlinski is over here... Jeff, you have a question for Alan, go for it.

Jeff Gavlinski: Yes, sir. So before I ask my question, I thought I'd give you a little bit of history, so this conference actually started in response to the IRA funds that the state of Colorado received in 2009. And I think you could argue that one of the issues and challenges with the overall project itself was the lack of oversight, so my question to you is, how do we make sure the money goes where it needs to go, and what are the... What is the foundation of oversight.

Alan: So it's a good...

Drew: Great point about oversight?

Alan: It's a great point, it's a great question. And we've tried and we will be building an oversight built at the federal level and requiring it at the state level, right? So the starting point for us is that oversight is essential. We are stewards of the federal money tax payer dollars here again, I also go back to, we will not meet our mission, we will not be able to connect everybody if the money is wasted, so we have a keen interest in making sure that they're strong oversight about how the money is spent. We do that in a couple of different ways. The biggest hook for us is the approval of the state plans, and we will be looking to the state plans, we hold states feet to the fire on making sure that there are real accountability mechanisms built in, we spell out some of those accountability requirements that we expect to see in these notices that we've put out, and the last thing I'll say is transparency, I think we believe that transparency is a critical piece of the trans... Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And we will be transparent about how we approach this, we expect states to be transparent about their planning and about their requirements and about where grant money is going, and I think this is a key lesson that we've all learned over the last decade.

Drew: Let's keep the conversation going, but let me invite questioners to come... I see we have them here, so let's go ahead and turn to Sean Gonsalves of MuniNetworks.

Sean Gonsalves: Hi, I'm Sean Gonsalves. Excuse me... Thank you for being here. Institute for local self-reliance, question. And I know there's some specifically language on the NOFO as it relates to grant access for municipalities and such, our organization and a handful of others, track, among other things, track which states have preemption laws that prevent or have a barrier to municipal broadband, etcetera. My question is, those states that have those preemption laws on the books, do they risk not being able to participate in the B program with those laws, without specifically waiving some of those laws or so... How will NTIA view those? Thank you.

Alan: We address this to some extent in our notice, so the key principle here is we wanna make sure that these programs are inclusive, and in fact, the law says that The programs must allow a wide variety of potential providers, lots of different models, community networks, non-profit, rural cooperatives, the statute actually says they can't be prohibited. We echo that in our notice, and we also know, and I will just say that in many circumstances, these varieties of different providers have been incredibly important, there's a lot of data that shows that, for example, especially in these unserved areas, especially in these hard to reach places, municipalities can play a very, very critical role so... Yeah, that's... And so no, no, that's it. So we address that in the notice, we are gonna press states to make sure that they're doing all that they can do under their laws to be including those...

Sean: Well, it's worth calling out what you actually say in the NOFO on page 50 and 51, you say that for those...

Alan: Sean comes very prepared... [laughter] For those who haven't sat with him before, this is very typical.

Sean: For those states that do have laws that would preclude it... NTIA, you say strongly encourages eligible entity states to waive all such laws for purposes of the program, if an eligible entity does not do so waive those laws, those restrictive laws, the state must identify all such laws in its initial proposal and describe how the laws will be applied in connection with the competition for it, those are pretty strong words there, Alan.

Alan: We are doing all we can to lean into the idea that we believe there's gonna be a variety of approaches that communities play a huge role here. And we're gonna try and do all we can we can under law. You know states have their laws, we're gonna try and do all we can under the law to pressure states, and to make sure that states are transparent where they're not able to meet them.

Drew: Yeah, wonderful question on this over here. Please identify yourself.

Guest Speaker: Yes. Good Morning, Alan. So I'm gonna couple on that question, and I'm gonna dive a little deeper into it, the middle mile funding that you have proposed, and we've seen the notice that goes as far as this a local there where most of them say most of the funding is under state oversight, but this goes all the way to local, so if your state does not get involved, will this go all the way to the local in that particular state?

Alan: So I think that there's...

Drew: If a state doesn't have a broadband office, is that what you're saying?

Guest Speaker: They have a broad band office, but the state of Ohio has a definition that excludes municipal broadbands from it getting any funding through the State of Ohio, but under middle mile, it talks about local government. Most of them have Ohio or they have state oversight. The middle mile funding is very specific. Goes all the way down to local. So if your state does not want to give to local, can you still go after the NTIA funding?

Drew: Yeah, it's an interesting question?

Alan: It's an interesting question. I think what you're saying, there's a couple of different pieces, so this is in the middle mile program, and for those at the middle mile program, just to review the bidding is it's a smaller program, it's about a billion dollars, it's a competitive grant program, so this does not go through state broadband offices. So unlike the state grant program, the big $42 billion program, we don't give money to the Colorado broad... And that one, we give money of the Colorado broadband or whoever the governor designates and the governor and the state will ultimately decide how that money is granted. In the middle mile program, it's a direct grant process, and so... But you're raising a really interesting question, we call out that we're gonna be accepting applications from a very wide variety of players, and we expect that to the extent that it's lawful, we will be hearing and we expect to receive grant applications from those plans.

Drew: Let me just build on that question, and as... Before we go to our next question over here about what is the role of the staff that both the historic staff that you've had and the staff now, obviously you've had many people work for many years on these programs before kind of the broadband USA was the former entity and now the Internet for All. What do you hope people will take from working with the staff at NTIA?

Alan: Well, first, I'll just say we're very lucky and I've been so impressed, I've only been on the job a little over four months now, but one of the great... One of the best things about my job is the team that we have, and most of whom predated me, and many of whom have been part of the Federal Government for years at a time... They work very hard. This is like kind of... For those of us who have been toiling in this space, probably a lot of you out there, this is a very unusual moment. I will say, we've been really lucky again, to have great staff, I hope that people will engage with them, there's a lot of expertise. I'll say we have two staffers here in the room where I will be here at the conference who I just call out, one is Scott Woods who's been the head of our first director of our Office of Minority broadband initiatives, and he is... Am I allowed to say, I think I am...

Drew: You are.

Alan: He's gonna be leaving us unfortunately, but he's been a giant in the field, help stand up this office, not going too far in the space, but Scott's here and if you see him... He's a great person to talk to about a lot of this work. But a lot of our digital... All of this work he's been a big part of, Sarah Blue is also gonna be speaking here later today, and she's gonna be the manager of our middle mile program for specific questions on middle mile. I'd hit her up. I'm also joined by Sara Maris, who's my senior advisor at NTIA on broadband issues, so all of us are here, and the idea is we're here to be a resource, and we know we may not have gotten everything right in the beginning, we know there's actually a lot of more work to do here, so we really welcome your feedback.

Drew: Alright, and let's give a round applause to the NTIA staff.

[applause]

Alan: I will say this staff has been... This team has been working incredibly hard the last... Since the passage of this bill, I know that six months sounds like a long time to stand up these programs, but I can tell you in federal government time, that is like light years, and the amount of work that went into putting these giant notice together in a really thoughtful way, doing the outreach, listening to all the feedback, over six... Almost 600 comments we got in the public record, just a huge amount of work, so this is a big milestone for us. And of course, like I say, it's just a starting gun too.

Drew: To... We still have a little more time. We got about 10 more minutes. So if you've got questions, go to the Q microphones, let's turn to Gary Bolton at Fiber Broadband.

Gary Bolton: Hey, Alan. I'm Gary Bolton, the CEO of Firebrand Association. And first of all, thank you for your leadership. Your staff has amazing, Doug Kinkoph, and the whole team has been really great. Also, I wanna congratulate you on the NOFO was actually very masterful in the way that you mitigated a lot of issue, redlining issues with LEO satellites and things like that, that really were going to cause a lot of issues, so I thought that you were very instructive without being over-prescriptive, I thought you'd had to write down, so thank you for that, and I just wanted to just make a clarification on something that Drew said earlier just to... As we represent the fiber industry, and there was a comment buy America, the fiber industry, we have plenty of domestic supply of fiber, a matter of fact, we actually exported 34% of our supply last year, and so from a Buy American plan, there's no reason not to buy domestic fiber. The issue is more on the electronic side, where you're putting a lot of parts together that are globally sourced, so I just wanted to make that clarification just so that you don't leave your thinking that someone needs to buy China for anybody other than a domestic supplier.

Drew: Well, thanks for the clarification. Let me ask the first part of what he said about satellite broadband, have you heard much from people about your declarations that satellite broadband is not reliable and you're basically not gonna give any funding of this 42 billion to satellite?

Alan: So starting point. We just, first of all, just say Thank you for the question and the clarification I think is well, it's well understood, and this is exactly why we do need to look carefully and we will be putting in a place a waiver process that's very careful about where the real where the real sticking points are, and we know that there are gonna be some... And we've heard from a fiber industry directly about some of this, so we're gonna be watching capacity and we're gonna be looking at this and we're eager to hear about your pain points, I would just say to everybody in the room. On this issue, I think that may be an over-statement. I don't think that there will be no money going to satellite, I believe our expectation is that in some states that will be... It will be an important part of solution.

Drew: State by state, by laboratories of democracy, different states can do different, some states will be much more fiber focused, other states will have a fiber terrestrial mix.

Alan: Yes. And it goes back to this overarching value of making sure that we're doing this right, and we're doing this in a way that is resilient to future needs, and you heard, I think, again, I struck by Senator Bennetts earlier today about wanting to make sure that we're not wasting this money. I think all of us feel very strongly, we've been building this program in the federal government, this is our shot, we do not want to... We will not be able to go back to Congress five years from now, or 10 years from now and say, "Oops, we didn't really build it in a way that works anymore, we need more money to upgrade speeds or to build a different kind of network now." This is an infrastructure project is designed to last for years, and we do put our thumb on the scale on the most resilient future-proof technologies that we can knowing that they are still gonna be in the room. This is the balance you talked about that there has to be an escape valve for states that for the high, really high cost areas, we fully expect that states will... That there will be states who will have significant portions of other technologies.

Drew: Okay. No, thanks for that clarification. We have another question over here.

Aaron Deacon: Aaron Deacon with KC Digital Drive. A general question about how you can navigate between potential conflicts between funding sources, with a specific example in Missouri. There was a $42 million NTIA broadband infrastructure program grant that was awarded in March, which I think covers 12 counties, maybe 13,000 individuals. And the projects were selected, there were a few in the Bootheel that were two-year turnaround time commitment to serve every household in the geographic area, and I think they may have been fiber, and it turns out after rewarded, they found out that there were RDOF awards from the FCC's program that we made, that had a six-year timeline, the proposals were cherry-picking some of the best customers in the area, and the technology wasn't as good, and so the states kind of struggling with... And what I understand is they've been told, Well, the FCC wins this battle, and so does the community lose... You don't need to necessarily address that specific one, although I would love suggestions, but I'm curious how you kind of navigate those tensions through this process.

Alan: Yeah, it's a terrific question. I think our starting point in our commitment and what we've had been asked by Congress to make sure that we are using federal funds wisely and we're not duplicating where we're going, as you've indicated, and I do think this is kind of an edge case, but there are edge cases. And we're aware of them. We're unbeknown to different agencies, awards have some overlap, and what we've done then after the fact is to de-conflict those overlaps, and sometimes that... Isn't what the local community wants? Our grants actually move out faster than those RDOF grants, so you consider them to be better grants for somebody to get, but we have stuck by that principle that Nader not gonna allow for double funding and... So we're working very hard. It takes a lot of work to make sure we're doing that de-confliction, this is where better data, by the way, and better maps are gonna help us a ton in the future, but even as we work towards that better future we're de-conflicting and making sure, we don't do that.

Drew: I mean, you kind of referred to the RDOF long process of... This was two years ago, they were bid on and they haven't been awarded money on the street yet. Did you just say that RDOF areas will not be eligible, or could you just clarify how those are gonna get handled.

Alan: I would just say it's complicated, and the only reason I say that is because there's lots of... There's different levels of RDOF for those who geek out on this stuff.

Drew: And we geek out on this.

Alan: And you do here, I know. But for rewards that are already granted, that are fully granted there, and I'm not gonna get the terminology right, there are awards that the FCC has still not finalized, and for those awards, we do think that other grant makers in the federal government ought to be able to make grants in those spaces, and then it should be up to the FCC to decide, have to de-conflict, but for where those funds are contractually obligated, and I'm not gonna get these terms right, so forgive me, but those who know know what I'm hopefully know what I'm talking about, there are gradations where we are gonna make sure we de-conflict.

Drew: Okay, we're running tight, but I like to air on the side of getting questions in, so...

Jase: We’ve got until 8:40.

Drew: By 8:40. Okay, well, great, then let's do them still, please be brief. One to Time. Go ahead.

Guest Speaker: Hi, I’m from Measurement Lab. I also have a geeky question also, everyone else who used this mic is taller than me. On the topic of mapping, I mean, there's an ongoing conversation in the Internet community about maybe the potential over-emphasis on speed and throughput bandwidth, and I was wondering how NTIA was thinking about other metrics such as latency, buffer, blow responsiveness, and was just curious if you could talk about that.

Drew: Great question.

Alan: So it is a great question, and we've tried to add some of that into our notice and our approach to this, there's a requirement around latency, again, we heard about this from in the comments that we received, and so we've tried to address that. There are other areas we have some looser metrics and desires around reliability and resiliency, and I think there's an opportunity to continue that conversation, so I just say we would welcome more input on this, and I'm gonna go quicker here because I know we have...

Drew: Well, but again, our balances between getting the right answer versus getting all of the questions in, is the 10/20 and 25/3? Are those actual speeds or promised speeds. Could you address that question?

[laughter]

Alan: Yes.

Drew: Yes.

[laughter]

Alan: They're designed to be actual speeds, but the question of What does that mean is an interesting question and one I think that we need to continue to dig into as we know.

Drew: And we certainly will. Okay, two more here. Go ahead.

Lori Adams: Thanks, Drew. My name's Lori Adams, I'm the Senior Director of Broadband policy and funding strategy for Nokia. Sticking with the mapping issue for a moment, could you talk a little bit about what you're anticipating the coordination between NTIA and FCC will be on the mapping data, because obviously the fabric that the FCC is working on is going to be the single point of truth for all of these things, the NOFO as the states to develop their own location-specific maps, and so could you just talk for a moment about what that is going to look like in terms of the states being able to provide that information in a timely fashion to the FCC for inclusion in the data maps. So.

Alan: I think you're 100% correct. The FCC maps really need to be... We are mandated by law to use those maps and to make them the source of truth here, there is a process that the FCC has, and it's complicated and is part of what is tricky about the timelines, which is that the FCC is gonna be... Please collecting data this summer, and they'll be putting out that data in the fall and they'll be opening it up for input and challenge from states, and so we're eager, and I will just say We are working directly and very closely with the FCC now on this issue. Our staffs, we are in touch regularly, we have a joint team of folks who are working on this, we talk a lot about it within the administration, because we know it's a gating item, I'll just say, I think the FCC chair woman has indicated that she's incredibly committed to putting resources into making sure that this happens fast, and I think your question just kind of raises the point about how important it's gonna be to get these maps, they're essential. We've made this error before, which is to rely on maps that are at the census block level or just not granular enough, these maps will be much better, it will take time to get them to be at to that much better place.

Alan: There'll always be kind of a approaching truth, it's like asymptotically, getting closer to the true state of what's happening out there. The best thing I would just say to everybody who's listening is, for those of you who are providers or people who have to put data into the system, we are really asking everybody to get their data into the FCC as quickly as possible, asking all providers because that is gonna be essential. The faster they get the data, the faster they can clean it up, turn it around and make sure that we've got good maps for everybody to use.

Drew: Alright, an ultimate question and I have the final one. So go ahead.

Colleen McCroskey: Thank you, everyone. My name is Colleen McCroskey, I'm a telecommunications attorney in Denver at a firm called Kissinger & Fellman General Counsel for the Colorado communications and utility Alliance. I know we've talked a little bit about preemption, and I was very heartened to see that the NOFO strongly encourages the waiver of state laws that would preempt municipal governments from the provision of broadband services. I was wondering if the NTIA and its staff has considered what it would do if it gets a proposal from a state that is not willing to waive those state laws, 'cause on one hand, we have a very clear statement from Congress that states may not exclude local government from these fundings, but on the other hand, it seems like it may not be within the intent of this bill to exclude a state from funding, so I'm wondering if the NTIA has considered what would happen in that situation?

Alan: I think you've raised the issue well, which is to say We have these interests, which are very important, we strongly believe that there should be the widest possible variety of opportunity to participate in the program. We know that municipal broadband plays an important role, particularly in a lot of unserved areas. I think the answer is in our notice, which is, you see in there us leaning in as far as we can, leaving in hard on the idea that states really should let that variety of providers participate.

Drew: So Alan, it was one of your predecessors, Larry Irving, who coined the term the digital divide, and the digital divide has come to mean lots of different things, in some cases, it's kind of a Rorschach test for what problems we have with broad band, it can mean the lack of broadband availability and rural areas, it can mean the high cost of broadband that keeps people in inner cities and other communities from having access, it could mean schools that don't have broadband, people who bring their laptops to McDonalds and other places because they don't have it, what are your thoughts, particularly as you've put a marker out there, a very strong marker, we want to end the digital divide. What will that look like? What is the digital divide mean from a programmatic, let's get rid of it type of thing.

Alan: Well, I'll just say, I think we have this goal, and it was one of my predecessors who really popularized that term about the digital divide of making sure that there's meaningful adoption and use, that people can participate... That everybody has the opportunity to participate in the modern economy, and we know that that means more than just making sure there's a connection available, right, a connection to somebody's home, a wire running past or wireless connection, if it's not affordable, that doesn't do that person that family, much good. If the connection is affordable, but they don't have a device to get online, that doesn't help, if they have a device to get online, but they don't know what to do, there are no applications, it doesn't work, and there's nothing in the language that they speak. They don't understand, they don't have the basic skills, then we haven't met our goal, so we are looking holistically at all of these, and the beauty of what Congress, I think did in this infrastructure billing and the other programs they've passed is given us and others around the federal government tools to address this together, we've been talking about a bunch of different programs that NTIA is administering, this big state grant program, our digital equity program, our middle mile program, we have a really big tribal Opportunity Program.

Alan: We would think about breeding these programs together, and the notion is that they reinforce each other and they reinforce the programs like the affordable connectivity program that the FCC is running, the treasury money that's being out there, the Rural Development Fund, the agriculture programs. We are together, and I sit all the time with the other leaders in these programs and other parts of the federal government, and we talk about how to brand these programs together towards that long-term goal, that big picture goal of making sure that there's meaningful adoption. So we are working on the ground to pull these pieces together, as I said, our strong belief is that we're gonna look back 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and look at this as the moment that our generation took the step to do with generations before us did, which is to make sure that everybody had the economic opportunity that they needed, that we addressed the inequalities and the fairness in our society by making sure that everybody could be part of the modern economy, and for us, that means meaningful adoption of high speed, affordable reliable internet. We are gonna need your help.

Alan: Really, the only way this works is if everybody... And it's not just the federal government, it's not just the state governments, it's local communities, it's providers, it's the workforce that needs to be developed, it's people themselves getting online and being part of this and telling their neighbors about it, so I just say thank you, thank you for being well, part of this movement, thank you all for being part of this for many years, and thank you for having me here today. This is a big historic moment for our country, and we've got a lot of work to do together.

Drew: Ladies and gentlemen, join me in thanking Alan Davidson.

[applause]

Alan: Thank you, thank you Drew.

Drew: Thank you.

Post Talk Press Center Video
Post Talk Press Center Transcript

Alan: Hi, Diana, Sara, Ann.

Ann: Hello. Nice to meet you.

Alan: Nice to see you.

Diana: Nice meet you. Thank you.

Alan: We've got a couple of folks here in the room. And I'll just say I'm joined by Sarah Morris, who is senior advisor at NTIA doing a lot of work on broadband and spent a lot of time on this. So I'm sure she'll chime in too, as well. So how would you... Who'd like to start? Why don't we go to one of our online folks since they've been waiting patiently? Sarah or Diana, do you wanna start?

Ann: Sure. Well, thank you so much for your time. I wanted to ask, there's been some folks since the release of the NOFO, about how fiber was labeled as having priority broadband projects. And some folks have had a little bit of a concern about the fact that areas served exclusively by satellite or other services that use only unlicensed spectrum would be labeled as unserved. Can you talk a little bit about the decision behind how you prioritize different projects in the NOFO? And what you would say to any folks that are worried about the potential for overbuilding in that case?

Alan: So I think there's a couple of different pieces to that question. First of all, as a starting point, our mission here is to make sure that everybody in America is connected. That is the mission that we've been given by the president by the Secretary of Commerce by Congress, to make sure that everyone in America has access to high speed, affordable Internet service. We've taken the approach that Congress was very clear that it wants to make sure that we're building these networks with some resilience to the future. And that we do not wanna be coming back five years from now 10 years from now, and saying, we need more money. We need to upgrade these networks.

Alan: We've had this experience in the past. And Senator Bennett spoke about this earlier and very eloquently about making sure that we've got money, that we're spending this money wisely in a way that's gonna be future proof. In looking at that and I think you see it reflected in the notices, we do call out certain... We call out the resilience, the unique properties of fiber optic technology as a core priority approach for states. That said, I think there's a lot of folks who've miss read, in some ways, the NOFO. There's going to be plenty of opportunity for other technologies. We fully expect that there will be areas where there is no priority fiber project because it's too expensive or states will... And states will be given the flexibility themselves to set high-cost thresholds where they feel like fiber may not be practical, and other technologies may be lower cost. So we fully expect that it's gonna vary quite a bit from state to state. We do expect there'll be some states that are very focused on fiber deployments, we expect that there will be other states where other technologies including satellite will be an important part of the mix.

Ann: Good. Thank you so much for the clarity there.

Alan: Okay. Sure. Thanks. Maybe a question from...

Diana: Do you mind if I jump in?

Alan: Yeah, go ahead, Diana.

Diana: Before you guys turn it over to the room?

Alan: Yeah.

Diana: Awesome. I kind of have two questions. One is why did you decide to include DSL and in your definition of reliable broadband alongside cable? That seems like an odd choice, just because DSL people are basically ripping out their DSL networks now. So I just wanted to ask about the rationale behind that. And then also, I know, you said that you expect some of the middle mile funding and the digital equity bid funding to be going out the door this year. But aside from those initial bid planning grants, when are you expecting the first grant money from that to be going out? Thank you.

Alan: Okay. So on the question of DSL, I think we didn't have evidence to show to us to say that every DSL implementation is unreliable. And so that's why we didn't say that in the notice. And we do see, of course, a lot of folks out there replacing DSL, and we imagine that will happen in a lot of situations, we are more focused on what the standard should be for understanding what's a the reliable technology, and what's not. On the grant money question. I think the answer is a little bit that it depends. And that what it really depends on is these maps. And Congress was very clear that our allocations and our ultimate grants need to be based on good maps. And what we've said here in the notice is a real reflection of that. And by the way, Congress also said the law says that we must use the FCC's maps.

Alan: The FCC is undergoing this process, spending a lot of money putting a lot of energy into it. They're collecting data I think they will be collecting data this summer from the carriers that will be the way that they populate this fabric that they've put together. We're confident those maps are gonna be better than any maps that we've had at the national level before. It's gonna take a little bit of time, and we are all pushing as hard as we can. So when those maps are ready, then we will be able to accept initial plan... Allocate money, accept initial plans, and move very rapidly after that. But that's the key gating item here. Question in the room? We've got one here, Sarah, another, Sarah.

Sarah Lai Stirland: I was just wondering, you never know for this very consistent reference to... You need to... ISPs need to... Communities have to work together, electrical states and territories have to work with local providers in order to get funded. What does that local coordination look like? Does it mean you get letters from local community organizations? What kind of organization? What does that evidence have to look like?

Alan: So do you wanna jump in?

Sarah Morris: I can jump in. We worked really hard in the NOFO, to make sure that this local coordination component was the foundation of how these state programs operate. We didn't want these to be perfunctory box-checking exercises where you hold one hub public hearing and consider that your local coordination. But we also wanna... We didn't wanna be overly prescriptive either. In the drafting of the local coordination section, we took great pains to provide a lot of guidance to eligible entities on what that should look like. And we plan to be... To work with eligible entities and states and territories to make sure that that engagement is the type of meaningful engagement that we know is what's necessary for really successful broadband projects.

Alan: I'll just chime in and say, I think part of the reason Congress actually require this, and part of the reason they did is I think just what Sara's saying. We understand that communities know best what they need, and so this needs to be, if it's gonna be successful, these programs, they need to be driven by communities and to have communities as a big part of it. So we spell out in the notice some of the ways that communities can... What we're gonna be looking for, and that includes transparency around plans, it includes a track record of reaching out to communities, it can't just be a check the box exercise and... We will, let states do it a lot of different ways, but we give some examples in the notice of the kinds of things we'll be looking for.

Sarah Morris: And we also really focus on under-represented communities as well.

Speaker 6: So to dovetail on that question. One of the issues that keeps coming up across the country, is the drop to the home or drop to the business, is that an allowable use as part of the funds, because it seems to be a barrier for entry for a lot of smaller ISPs and a lot of Muni networks that are deploying fiber?

Alan: Can you say a little bit more about that?

Speaker 6: So for a network to actually connect the home, the fiber passes the home for fiber to connect to the home or to the business, usually about the cost of that two or $3000, which is typically incurred by the property owner, that cost has become a barrier to entry for a lot of networks around the country. Would the NOFOs permit, funds to be used as an allowable use to do that drop?

Alan: Good question I have to say, I wanna be precise about it, so we would need to give some more guidance on that.

Speaker 6: Okay.

Sarah Morris: No, we've talked about this, Bob, and we've been talking about it among the team too, and I think we would love to continue the dialogue with you.

Alan: And what I said, by the way, that's what part of when we say about NOFO the notices, as we comb the NOFOs are not the final word. We fully anticipate there will be more technical assistance and more written guidance coming out from NTIA on issues that we may have not fully addressed.

Speaker 6: And what's your favorite Ski Resort?

Alan: Wow [laughter] Nobody here wants to hear that I grew up in the Northeast, and I'm a Killington guy but to say that here is it just... It's kind of sacrilege. But there you go, shout out to Killington.

Speaker 7: Good work for you burning artiste, and I've written that change of pace question for you, you've gotta be the most popular guy in Broadband today. You got a lot of...

Alan: It doesn't help me at home, I'll just tell you that. But...

Speaker 7: A lot of weight on your shoulders and I'm just curious how you're managing that and... Is the job what you expected it to be? What are some of the surprises?

Alan: Yeah, that's a really great question. I think there's been a bunch of different things, and I said this before, but I really mean it. One of the great pleasant surprises was, what an awesome team of people that are working on this in the federal government, both at NTIA and other places, you all may know some of them, people who have just been toiling in this vineyard for years and really care about this issue, and now we're really...

Diana: It feels like a historic moment, people are believers, people are working their butts off to get this work done. I think one of the other surprises for me is just the complexity of a lot of this, it sounds like... Sounds great, you've got 48 billion dollars. Just connect everybody in America and bridge the digital divide. As we've been talking about it, it's complicated, and the law that was written was complicated, there are a lot of trade-offs in different things we're trying to achieve, we wanna go fast, but we wanna be good stewards of the taxpayer money. We wanna give states a lot of flexibility, but we wanna also make sure that we're holding them accountable, and you see in this notice, and that's I think, a little bit of not a surprise to me, but it's been really more than I thought was just the complexity of trying to make sure we get that balance right, and it's a complicated system, so we need to make sure we're touching on all these issues and there'll be things that we didn't anticipate.

Guest Speaker: A point of clarification, it seems as if I read the NOFOs right, that 20% of the funding should be available and start flowing 2023 and then the balance, probably 2024, '25, '26. Did I read that, right? And what's your message to communities that are building now and that are looking for some federal funds now to help them with their build-out... How do we bridge that gap?

Alan: I think, again, this is one where it will depend on the mapping, but there's definitely... The way the statute is written is that once we've got the maps and we can allocate the money, we can allocate that first 20%, once we've got initial plans from states, and we expect some states will move quickly through that process. But again, it will depend on the maps, but that is time, that's still time until we get to deployment, and your question is right, and we're very conscious of this first communities, and I would just say there are other federal funds out there right now that are being allocated. We just did this broadband our bit program, broadband infrastructure project grants. We're doing a lot of state grant programs, that's not for every community. The...

Guest Speaker: Treasury.

Alan: I'm sorry. So the Treasury Department has its ARP funding. We know that the department of agriculture is gonna continue its funding processes, so there are these other streams of money that we really are trying to point people to and work all together, and I'll say we are proactively reaching out to states that we think are gonna have real access challenges and really encouraging them to use, for example, their ARP money, their treasury department money for broadband. They have some flexibility, but for the states that really need it, we want them to use it now. So there are these different funding streams, and we're hoping to provide some avenue into it.

Guest Speaker: So I was talking to Sara earlier, and it's been amazing what you guys have accomplished in a very short amount of time, what is... For each of you, what has been your biggest surprise throughout this process?

Sarah Lai Stirland: I would have said the complexity. I think that we... As someone who just came into the government from the outside, I was at an advocacy organization prior to NTIA. And to echo what Alan said earlier, there has just been so much thought and care and hard work that has gone into this. And that's not to say that folks on the outside aren't doing the hard work too, but I think really seeing all of the pieces come together behind the scenes has been something that is, that has been really surprising and rewarding. It's not just one slice of one industry or one perspective. It's really like, how do we bring all those together and do this, right.

Alan: I'll add two other little quick points. One is just, at the highest level of government, there's real commitment to this. And so that was... That's reassuring and wonderful to see. And I will say also at the grassroots level, I've been really so pleasantly surprised and I'll say, somebody who's followed and worked in this space for a while but hasn't initially always gotten the chance to get out into the world and see this. I was here actually in Colorado, at Denver, with the first lady at an economics... Latino economic summit six weeks ago maybe, met with a whole group of community leaders from across the state who were working on, at the community level, getting devices to people, thinking about in their community what it means to have real good broadband connectivity, thinking about affordability. Seeing that energy level at the community level is just incredible and it kind of lifts ourselves. So fills ourselves, I guess. So anyway, that's been wonderful to see. I know we've got a couple of minutes. There's one...

Guest Speaker: And there's one on the...

Alan: Let me go back here and then one, and then we can go to the phone... To the phone again, or computer again. Sorry. Jase, do you want to add something, yeah.

Speaker 8: Oh yeah, absolutely. Alan, Sarah, thank you. Notebook reads, like you all learned a ton of awesome lessons from prior programs. Very thoughtful in particular, we're struck by the sort of cross sector collaboration is sort of not the restrictions to restrict this type of group in this cyber group, but it seemed like you all had a lot of really new thoughts in mind about especially matching funds. You predicted, or you knew, Alan, ahead of time, once we started talking about 25% match on the floor rather than the ceiling, and you got that and that's in place. And the art is like an awesome, young vehicle for that purpose. So what are some of your thoughts about matching funds and yeah. How can other sectors help?

Alan: I don't know if folks on the line could hear, it's a question about matching funds and I think we do and you can see it in the notice, we do view... I think one of the big learnings for us was that we kind of went into it thinking about there's a lot of attention to the 25% match. And when might they be waived in certain circumstances, which we fully anticipate and expect that for some communities and some providers that will be really important, but we also kind of learned and heard from the private sector that actually in some cases, a 25% match is not enough. That actually, there are a lot of programs that are not economical right now, but if we gave a 50% federal match, that's enough to make it an economical program that people are very happy to build.

Alan: So again, this goes back to the principle. We wanna make federal dollars go as far as possible so that we can connect as many people as possible with the best broadband that we can give them. And the best way to do that is to encourage states to be smart about how they give out their money. So you see in the notice our push to say, try and get the best match you can from a provider that won't always be the right answer. And in some cases you may actually have to do more to subsidize providers and to waive matches, but where we can, we know that there'll be situations where people will match more. So you see that in the notice. Okay, let's go to the, and I think these will have to be our last couple here. Diana, do you wanna go ahead?

Diana: I just wanted to follow up on what you were saying during the keynote about the RDOF funding. I know you were kind of, it seemed like referencing the ready to authorize and fully authorize money. [laughter] So when exactly are you going to draw the cutoff line for stuff that's already been funded versus stuff that may or may not be funded when you're deciding what can be allocated? So it seems like right now there's a gray area and the FCC is kind of approving funding on a rolling cadence. So when is that cutoff line?

Alan: So there's, here's one way to answer it. And then Sarah will tell me where I got it wrong. So... For the purposes of, you're asking about allocation to the states. So we have to decide at some, at some point there'll be an allocation based on unserved. The number of unserved locations, largely each states gets a hundred million or a territory gets $25 million. And on top of it, based on unserved. What you see in the notice is that we do not wanna penalize states for money that they may decide to spend on for ARP money or RDOF money that's coming, but that hasn't been built out yet. And it's also quite complicated to figure out what that is. So for the purposes of allocation that we're gonna be doing in the next year, right? When the maps come out, right? And then the allocations get made, we are gonna be purely looking at the maps and then look at what is served right now, when the maps come out, what the maps show is served.

Alan: So we do that. So we don't penalize against future builds that may or may not happen. Right? However, we've also been given a mandate to make sure that states don't overbuild. And so when states go around to actually implementing, which is gonna be a little bit further down the line and doing their grant making, we are gonna insist that they don't, that there can't be federal funding where there's already federal funding. And so states will need to de-conflict that in the grant making process, but that's the way we've divided it, which we think is consistent with what Congress wanted. Right. We want to incentivize states to use all of the different federal forces. We don't wanna penalize them for that but for the purposes allocation, we're only gonna look at what's served right now, 'cause that's what's clear and on the table.

Diana: So for instance, if the FCC decides not to approve all of the fixed wireless providers that were winners in RDOF, that'll get affected once the states sent and then it's...

Alan: Yes, exactly. And they won't be... The key thing is that they won't be penalized now and say that those are unserved locations for allocation. Did I get that right?

Sarah Morris: No, that's right. And I think that this is reflecting the complicated reality that these builds are happening all the time. And at some point... Alan's gonna have to make the decision of when to pull the trigger on allocations, and... That's one moment in time. And so we will do that then, and then but that doesn't change the nature of this dynamic build-out process that's already happening with states, and so then we've designed the NOFO to accommodate those builds in the way that Alan said.

Alan: Sarah. This is Sarah here. I think this may be our last question. Listen.

Sarah Lai Stirland: Maybe... An easy one for you. There was so much build up to the NOFO and I'm right, the letters of intent are due July 18th. So can you just talk about what the next few months look like for you and the team. There was so much build up to the NOFO. Love to know what the next few months look like for you, communications with Dave, the team, etcetera.

Alan: It's a great question. As I said this, and we've been doing a huge amount of work to launch the program and get these notices out, but really that's just the starting gun... For this long race. And so we will be... The next couple of months are very important in getting states on board. And so the first thing we're really focused on right now in the coming weeks is getting states and territories to submit their letters of intent. We'll be keeping track of it. We've got it posted just for transparency, we've got a little map posted on our website internetforall.gov, strongly encourage you all to visit. We'll keep it updated. We also care a lot about that for the digital equity program. We spend a lot of time talking about the B program, the state grant program, but states also need to opt into the digital equity program to get planning grants for digital equity and ultimately get capacity grants for the states to build out digital equity.

Alan: So we are really going to be leaning into pushing the states on that as well, and then the key thing for our team then is... Well, and I'd say in parallel with that, we're gonna be pushing out on middle mile. We're expecting... We've got grants that will be coming in this year, in the coming months. You'll be seeing more from us on tribal grants, we've got a big tribal grant program and we've waited till after this is launched, but we've got more tribal grants coming out. We were launching a connected minority communities program, that's something else that... Not part of the infrastructure but a little bit prior to that, we've given money for that. So that's very specific money going to historically black colleges, other kinds of... Institutions that represent underrepresented minorities, so you'll be seeing that. And then as we build out, then it'll really become more about the maps and making sure that the maps are moving along quickly.

Alan: So that's what the next few months are gonna be like, there's a ton going on in this space. I will say there's other things happening in the federal government too, our big push to get people to use ACP, the affordable connectivity program, more treasury money going out the door. So I think you'll be seeing a lot of activity in the coming months, we are all working together in this one direction, which is to connect everybody to make sure bridging the digital divide to get everybody connected with high speed affordable internet, and you'll see that across the administration, it's a huge priority. And we're glad to be doing our part here today. Thank you.

Diana: Thanks for the hard work.

Alan: Thanks for your comments and questions. Thank you everybody in the room too. Great to be here.

Guest Speaker: Thank you.

Guest Speaker: Thank you.

Alan: Thanks.