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Crowdsourced Public Response to NTIA's Request for Comment

Crowdsourced Public Response to NTIA's Request for Comment Banner Image

Introduction

Welcome to the Broadband.Money crowdsourced public response to NTIA’s Request for Comment. For access to the event and document commenting, please RSVP here. Once the live event is finished, comments will remain open so that others can weigh in.

There are two goals to this exercise:

  1. Help communities and grant applicants shape their perspective on how they might answer the NTIA directly, as well as a chance to shape the perspectives of other commenters
  2. Arrive at a collaborative response among stakeholders to the NTIA’s Request for Comments. 

We are opening this up to all who have registered on Broadband.Money for their thoughts.

Replies to the NTIA Request for Comments are due on February 4, 2022. The document is mostly cut and pasted below. Beginning with this online session, we are initiating a collaborative document with ideas that each of you have.

There are many core themes or areas:

  • Bringing reliable broadband to all Americans
  • Supporting states and subgrantees
  • American workers, and American products
  • Under the BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment) Program:
    • Publicly-funding broadband networks
    • Universal broadband
    • State-local-Tribal partnerships
    • Low-cost broadband
  • Under the Digital Equity Act of 2021
    • State digital equity plans
    • Digital equity coordination requirements
  • Under the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure program
    • (Several Issues)

Among the most important issues for debate include these questions:

  • Question 3: Types of data
  • Question 6: Process of state efforts
  • Question 9: Matching requirements
  • Question 12: Buy American
  • Question 15: Speed
  • Question 16: Prior builds
  • Question 17: Unserved areas
  • Question 22: Low-cost options
  • Question 23: NTIA baseline on “low-cost”
  • Question 32: Middle mile in low-income areas
  • Question 34: Splice points

NTIA Request for Comment

This Notice offers an opportunity for all interested parties to provide vital input and recommendations for consideration in the development of broadband programs established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for implementation by NTIA. This Notice seeks comment on several Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant programs to be administered by NTIA: The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, the Middle-Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, and the Digital Equity Planning Grant Program. NTIA intends to release a future request for comment on the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program. In addition, given the unique nature of the nation-to-nation relationship, NTIA will conduct a Tribal consultation to gather input on questions related to the additional funding appropriated for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, an NTIA program previously implemented under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. 

III.
Request for Comments NTIA welcomes input on any matter that commenters believe is important to NTIA’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law implementation efforts. Commenters are invited to comment on the full range of issues presented by this Notice, and are encouraged to address any or all of the following questions, or to provide additional information relevant to implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs. In particular, we invite commenters who have applied to or had experience with other federal or state broadband funding programs to offer suggestions for how to effectively implement these new funding programs, based on their experiences. When responding to one or more of the questions below, please note in the text of your response the number of the question to which you are responding. As part of their response, commenters are welcome to provide specific actionable proposals, rationales and relevant factual information. NTIA seeks public comment on the following questions:

Bringing Reliable, Affordable, High Speed Broadband to All Americans

1. What are the most important steps NTIA can take to ensure that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs meet their goals with respect to access, adoption, affordability, digital equity, and digital inclusion?  Access to broadband capacity and the Internet must be provided to the disabled, particularly those disabled from wireless radiation sickness or sensitivity and who cannot have any wireless antennas near their homes, schools or medical facilities. Because many of the disabled are also poor, providing fiber would ensure adoption, digital equity and inclusion.  Fiber would be more affordable than wireless.  Priority should be given to municipal broadband which is more affordable, and provides for digital equity and inclusion.  See Chattanooga, TN which is wired fiber to the premises for every residence and business and has the fastest internet speeds in the US and one of the fastest in the world.  Their rates are very affordable and a 10 year lookback since their fiber installation has produced billions of dollars in cost savings.   Fiber-fast speeds and fiber’s low cost to consumers will encourage adoption, while wireless will require continuous upgrades, where carriers will simply pass increasing costs to the consumers, endangering adoption.  It is important to note that whatever digital divide exists now was created by the carriers who are purportedly claiming to come to the rescue to rectify it.  The carriers promised broadband to all, and fiber to the premises, which former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler testified to Congress in March, 2021 that the carriers failed to do.  That is why Tom Wheeler is advocating using wired, future-proof technology.  After all, people cannot adopt a technology that hasn’t been made available to them, and the carriers have failed to make the technology available to them (despite billions of dollars of subsidies).  

2. Obtaining stakeholder input is critical to the success of this effort. How best can NTIA ensure that all voices and perspectives are heard and brought to bear on questions relating to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs? Are there steps NTIA can and should take beyond those described above?  Residents must be given the right to choose the method of broadband access (wired or wireless), by providing them with sufficient notice and the power to consent to wired or wireless access, and appropriate accommodation to be made to those who are disabled because they are suffering from wireless radiation sickness or sensitivity because of wireless frequencies intruding into their homes, schools and medical facilities (see, e.g., https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26372109/).  Providing digital equity means providing the disabled access to broadband capacity and the Internet far from any wireless antennas, and providing fiber optics or other hard wired alternatives, to the premises and within the premises.   One such stakeholder would be the Electrosensitive Society consisting of Americans, as well as Canadians (see https://www.electrosensitivesociety.com).    Input from residents and local grass-roots organizations should be consulted especially since 5G is already being used by the US as a military weapon.  The 5G nodes point directly into people’s homes and children’s bedrooms.  Can those 5G nodes be weaponized?  If they can be weaponized, then the carriers have no business installing those 5G nodes, and the residents and grass-roots organizations should have a say on whether they would approve such technology in extreme proximity to their homes, schools and medical facilities.

3. Transparency and public accountability are critical to the success of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs. What types of data should NTIA require funding recipients to collect and maintain to facilitate assessment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law programs’ impact, evaluate targets, promote accountability, and/or coordinate with other federal and state programs? Are there existing data collection processes or templates that could be used as a model? How should this information be reported and analyzed, and what standards, if any, should NTIA, grant recipients, and/or sub-grantees apply in determining whether funds are being used lawfully and effectively?  Competitive bidding should include providing Fiber To The Premises (FTTP) to future-proof broadband infrastructure, as Tom Wheeler testified in Congress March 2021, with fiber first and wireless only when necessary (as determined by the community).  The rationale is to pay for it once and done.  The savings reaped from a fiber first strategy has brought tremendous savings to Chattanooga, TN which is completely wired FTTP to residences and businesses.  Competitive bidding should ensure equal access to broadband capacity and the Internet.  It should also include notice to residents and their consent to ensure that they can choose fiber over wireless, and residents not be blocked from making that choice.  This is particularly vital for those disabled (adults as well as children) from wireless radiation to provide them housing and accommodations away from wireless infrastructure.   These disabled individuals tend to also include the poorer communities.  Providers must assess who in the community has wireless radiation sickness or sensitivity and to address what accommodation they will make to ensure that those affected negatively by wireless radiation will have equal access to broadband capacity and the Internet through wired options without wireless antennas being around their homes, schools or work. Providers must show that if they are providing wireless antennas, that they have affirmative evidence of environmental review.  The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2019 struck down the FCC’s 5G deployment order because the FCC failed to assess the environmental impact of 5G in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.  Therefore, 5G should not be deployed under this Act.  Also, providers must comply with FCC emission standards through an independent, non-industry affiliated, entity; however, those emission standards have recently been put into question.  The same Court on Aug 13, 2021 ruled that the FCC violated the Administrative Procedures Act when the FCC deemed their 1996 exposure safety limits sufficient now 25 years later when the FCC declined to review the thousands of scientific studies and the hundreds of submissions from people and children who were severely injured from wireless radiation (see this pdf).  Who would want to buy a car, or board a plane, whose safety regulations have not been updated since 1996?  With technology updates and upgrades occurring seemingly almost every 5 minutes, 1996 exposure limits are from the age of the dinosaur.  Providers need to provide affirmative evidence to stakeholders that the wireless technology is safe before installing any wireless technology, even if approved.

4. NTIA has an interest in ensuring that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is implemented in a way that promotes the efficient use of federal funds. How should NTIA and grant recipients verify that funding is used in a way that complements other federal and state broadband programs?  The providers should disclose any taxpayer funded subsidies or other government incentives provided to them to build out fiber to the premises (FTTP) and where that money has gone.  There have been billions of dollars and incentives provided to carriers to build FTTP, and the carriers need to account for how that money has been spent and why, many years later, have they not been able to deliver FTTP to areas that do not yet have them.  If the carriers are not able to satisfactorily account for the moneys, or if those moneys have been siphoned off to their wireless enterprises, then those carriers should be disqualified from providing any services.  There should also not be overbuilding of FTTP and wireless.  If there is FTTP, there is no need for wireless and would be a waste of taxpayer funds.

Supporting States, Territories, and SubGrantees To Achieve the Goal

  1. In implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s programs, NTIA will offer technical assistance to states, localities, prospective sub-grantees, and other interested parties. What kinds of technical assistance would be most valuable? How might technical assistance evolve over the duration of the grant program implementation?
  2. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires states and territories to competitively select subgrantees to deploy broadband, carry out digital equity programs, and accomplish other tasks. How should NTIA assess a particular state or territory’s subgrant award process? What criteria, if any, should NTIA apply to evaluate such processes? What process steps, if any, should NTIA require (e.g., Request for Proposal)? Are there specific types of competitive subgrant processes that should be presumed eligible (e.g., publicly released requests for proposals and reverse auctions)? 
  3. NTIA views the participation of a variety of provider types as important to achieving the overall goals of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law broadband programs. How can NTIA ensure that all potential subrecipients, including small and medium providers, cooperatives, non-profits, municipalities, electric utilities, and larger for-profit companies alike have meaningful and robust opportunities to partner and compete for funding under the programs? The larger for-profit companies should only compete for funding if they have not previously received government funding or subsidies, or if they have, then they must account for how those funds/subsidies were used, if they were used properly and if the results obtained achieved the goals for which the funds/subsidies were earmarked.  If the for-profit companies cannot meet all of the foregoing conditions, then they would receive no funding under the Law.   According to former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, despite government subsidies given to the carriers, the carriers promised to provide broadband connectivity to all – and failed.  We should not repeat the same mistake again.
  4. States and regions across the country face a variety of barriers to achieving the goal of universal, affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband and broadband needs, which vary from place to place. These challenges range from economic and financial circumstances to unique geographic conditions, topologies, or other challenges that will impact the likelihood of success of this program. In implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs, how can NTIA best address such circumstances?  The success of the program can only be assured by notice to and consent of the residents who will be affected.  Residents’ consent should not ever be viewed as a barrier.  Also, as Tom Wheeler stated, fiber is future proof and will be most cost effective without wasting taxpayer dollars on wireless technology that becomes quickly antiquated.  Also, spraying residents with ever more powerful radiation will raise health costs and health injuries.  After all, insurance companies have declined to cover for injuries from wireless radiation (e.g., Lloyd’s of London and Swiss Re).  Objections to health need to be addressed and not be relegated to, or dismissed as, a barrier.  
  5. Several Bipartisan Infrastructure Law broadband programs provide that, absent a waiver, a grant or subgrant recipient must contribute its own funding, or funding obtained from a non-federal source, to ‘‘match’’ funding provided by the BIL program. Under what circumstances, if any, should NTIA agree to waive these matching fund requirements, and what criteria should it assess (in accordance with any criteria established by the statute) when considering waiver requests? 

Ensuring the Future of America Is Made in America by All of America’s Workers

  1. The COVID–19 pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and impacted employment patterns. What is the likely impact of current workforce and supply chain constraints on the speed with which states, service providers, and others achieve the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s network deployment objectives? Are the areas unserved or underserved by broadband networks, which will see substantial new deployments under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband provisions, likely to face particularly significant workforce or supply-chain constraints? What steps, if any, should NTIA take to mitigate the impact of workforce or supply-chain limitations? 
  2. One objective of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is to ensure American workers have access to high quality jobs, especially those who were impacted the most by the pandemic, including women and people of color. What federal policy tools can NTIA apply to help ensure that broadband funding is deployed in a way that maximizes the creation of good paying jobs and that women and people of color have full opportunity to secure those jobs. 
  3. What steps, if any, should NTIA take to ensure maximum use of American-made network components and that supply shortages are addressed in ways that create high quality jobs for all Americans? What impact, if any, will application of the ‘‘Buy American’’ requirements in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have on supply chain and workforce challenges and on the speed with which the nation can reach the goal of 100% broadband connectivity? 

Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program

The BEAD Program is a $42.45 billion program for states, territories, the District of Columbia (DC), and Puerto Rico (P.R.) (‘‘states and territories’’) to utilize for broadband deployment, mapping, equity and adoption projects. Each state, DC, and P.R. will receive an initial allocation of $100 million—and $100 million will be divided equally among the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. NTIA will distribute the remaining funding based on a formula that considers the number of unserved and high-cost locations in the state, based on the updated broadband availability maps to be published by the FCC. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provides NTIA with discretion to establish additional eligible uses for the funding. BEAD program funding will be dispersed in three phases. The first phase allows states and territories to access up to $5 million each to support planning efforts, including building capacity in state broadband offices and to fund outreach and coordination activities with local communities and stakeholders. The second phase requires states and territories to submit an initial broadband plan to NTIA. These plans must be informed by collaboration with local and regional entities and will lay out how each respective state and territory will use the BEAD funding and other funds to bring reliable, affordable, high-speed broadband to all residents. Once NTIA approves the initial plan, states and territories will be able to access additional funds from their BEAD allocation. States and territories will be able to access the remaining funds upon review and approval of a final plan by NTIA. 

Ensuring Publicly Funded Broadband Networks That Sustain and Scale

  1. NTIA is committed to ensuring that networks built using taxpayer funds are capable of meeting Americans’ evolving digital needs, including broadband speeds and other essential network features. What guidance or requirements, if any, should NTIA consider with respect to network reliability and availability, cybersecurity, resiliency, latency, or other service quality features and metrics? What criteria should NTIA establish to assess grant recipients’ plans to ensure that service providers maintain and/or exceed thresholds for reliability, quality of service, sustainability, upgradability and other required service characteristics? Provide Fiber To The Premises (FTTP).   Fiber is future-proof technology, as Tom Wheeler testified in Congress in March, 2021.  Fiber provides network reliability, availability, cybersecurity, resiliency, nearly no latency, sustainable, upgradable.  Wireless performance varies on all of these features and metrics.  Fiber is usually consistent.  Another metric is energy consumption.  Future generations of wireless (5G and onwards) are projected to significantly increase energy consumption which runs contrary to our country’s climate change initiatives. 
  2. NTIA is committed to ensuring that networks constructed using taxpayer funds are designed to provide robust and sustainable service at affordable prices over the long term.What criteria should NTIA require states to consider to ensure that projects will provide sustainable service, will best serve unserved and underserved communities, will provide accessible and affordable broadband in historically disconnected communities, and will benefit from ongoing investment from the network provider over time? 
  3. In its effort to ensure that BEAD funded networks can scale to meet Americans’ evolving needs, and to ensure the public achieves the greatest benefit from the federal investment, NTIA seeks to understand reasonably foreseeable use cases for America’s broadband infrastructure over the next five, ten, and twenty years. What sort of speeds, throughput, latencies, or other metrics will be required to fully connect all Americans to meaningful use over the next five, ten, and twenty years? How can the BEAD program meet our nation’s broadband network connectivity needs in the future and what other benefits can Americans expect from this program and the networks it will help fund in other industries and across the economy? How can existing infrastructure be leveraged to facilitate and amplify these benefits? What are the best sources of evidence for these questions and for predicted future uses of broadband? 
    1. Suggestion from Mike Vivaldi, moving here to keep the question intact: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/central/blog/remote-learning-plans.as

Allocation and Use of BEAD Funds To Achieve Universal, Reliable, Affordable, High-Speed Broadband

  1. Broadband deployment projects can take months or years to complete. As a result, there are numerous areas where an entity has made commitments to deploy service—using its own funding, government funding, or a combination of the two—but in which service has not yet been deployed. How should NTIA treat prior buildout commitments that are not reflected in the updated FCC maps because the projects themselves are not yet complete? What risks should be mitigated in considering these areas as ‘‘served’’ in the goal to connect all Americans to reliable, affordable, high speed broadband?   Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) has an initial investment, but as Tom Wheeler testified, is future proof.  Pay it once and done.  The return on investment is enormous.  Chattanooga, TN has done a 10 year lookback on its fiber installation.  It has saved billions of dollars, and they are able to provide lower cost to consumers across the board to access broadband.  That should be a model for our country.  We also need to look at adverse environmental effects and that the FCC does not have emission standards that can be relied upon.   
  2. Ten percent of total BEAD funding is reserved for distribution based on how many unserved locations within a state or territory are also locations in which the cost to deploy service is higher than the nationwide average. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides that, in calculating the cost of deployment, NTIA should consider factors such as the area’s remoteness, population density, topography, poverty rate, or ‘‘any other factor identified by the Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the [FCC], that contributes to the higher cost of deploying broadband service in the area.’’ BIL § 60102(a)(2)(G). What additional factors, if any, should NTIA consider in determining what constitutes a ‘‘high cost area’’? 
  3. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides that BEAD funding can be used in a variety of specific ways, including the provision of service to unserved and underserved areas, connection of community anchor institutions, data collection, installation of service within multi-family residential buildings, and broadband adoption programs. The law also permits the Assistant Secretary to designate other eligible uses that facilitate the program’s goals. What additional uses, if any, should NTIA deem eligible for BEAD funding? 

Establishing Strong Partnerships Between State, Local, and Tribal Governments

  1. Community engagement is critical to eliminating barriers to broadband access and adoption. NTIA views strong involvement between states and local communities as key to ensuring that the broadband needs of all unserved and underserved locations are accounted for in state plans submitted for funding. What requirements should NTIA establish for states/territories to ensure that local perspectives are critical factors in the design of state plans? 
  2. When formulating state broadband plans, what state agencies or stakeholder groups should be considered in the development of those plans? 
  3.  How can NTIA ensure that states/ territories consult with Tribal governments about how best to meet Tribal members’ needs when providing funding for broadband service to unserved and underserved locations on Tribal lands within state boundaries? 

Low-Cost Broadband Service Option and Other Ways To Address Affordability

  1. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires that BEAD funding recipients offer at least one low-cost broadband option and directs NTIA to determine which subscribers are eligible for that low-cost option. BIL § 60102(h)(5)(A). How should NTIA define the term ‘‘eligible subscriber?’’ In other words, what factors should qualify an individual or household for a low-cost broadband option?  Low-cost options need to include a choice as to the kind of connectivity people need, to have fiber connection to broadband as a choice.  This is particularly important for those with wireless radiation sickness or sensitivity.  This is a fast growing disability, particularly with the proliferation of wireless radiation in extreme proximity to people’s homes and schools.  The biological harms of wireless are irrefutable, to people, children, flora and fauna (e.g., WHO classifying wireless as a 2B possible human carcinogen, FDA’s NTP 2018 study showing clear evidence of DNA damage in lab animals, confirmed by the famous Ramizzini Institute, the Navy’s extensive studies in the 1970s of neurological and other damage, including hundreds if not thousands of other scientific studies). 
  2. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states and territories are charged with developing low-cost broadband service options in consultation with NTIA and broadband providers interested in receiving funding within the state. BIL § 60102(h)(5)(B). What factors should NTIA consider in guiding the states in design of these programs to achieve this goal? Should NTIA define a baseline standard for the ‘‘low-cost broadband service option’’ to encourage states/ territories to adopt similar or identical definitions and to reduce the administrative costs associated with requiring providers to offer disparate plans in each state and territory? What are the benefits and risks, if any, of such an approach? 
  3. Affordability is a key objective of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s broadband programs. What factors should be considered in the deployment of BEAD funds to help drive affordability beyond the low-cost option?  Fiber To The Premises (FTTP) which will provide affordability over time.

Implementation of the Digital Equity Act of 2021

The Digital Equity Act dedicated $2.75 billion to establish three grant programs that promote digital inclusion and equity to ensure that all individuals and communities have the skills, technology, and capacity needed to reap the full benefits of our digital economy. The goal of these programs is to promote the meaningful adoption and use of broadband services across targeted populations, including low-income households, aging populations, incarcerated individuals, veterans, individuals with disabilities, individuals with a language barrier, racial and ethnic minorities, and rural inhabitants. As noted above, given the sequence of programs that NTIA is implementing, NTIA intends to release another request for comment (RFC) in the future to address the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and Digital Equity Competitive Grant Programs. The questions below are specific to the Digital Equity Planning Grant Program. 

State Digital Equity Plans

  1. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes historic investments in digital inclusion and digital equity, promising to bring all Americans the benefits of connectivity irrespective of age, income, race or ethnicity, sex, gender, disability status, veteran status, or any other characteristic. NTIA seeks to ensure that states use Digital Equity Planning Grants to their best effect. What are the best practices NTIA should require of states in building Digital Equity Plans? What are the most effective digital equity and adoption interventions states should include in their digital equity plans and what evidence of outcomes exists for those solutions? 
  2. Some states and territories will benefit from technical assistance in preparing Digital Equity Plans. What types of technical assistance, support, data, or programmatic requirements should NTIA provide to states and territories to produce State Digital Equity Plans that fully address gaps in broadband adoption, promote digital skills, advance equitable access to education, healthcare and government services, and build information technology capacity to enable full participation in the economy for covered populations? What steps, if any, should NTIA take to monitor and assess these practices?  Equitable access to education, healthcare, emergency services, etc. requires large broadband capacity and reliability.  Fiber provides both, and when there is an emergency such as a tornado, blizzard or other “act of God” where access to healthcare, telehealth and emergency services are at their height, fiber being underground can deliver.  Whereas wireless communications can be easily disrupted, stranding many disabled, elderly, and poor people.  
  3. Equity is also a named goal of the BEAD program described above. How should NTIA ensure that State Digital Equity Plans and the plans created by states and territories for the BEAD program are complementary, sequenced and integrated appropriately to address the goal of universal broadband access and adoption? 
  4. How should NTIA ensure that State Digital Equity Plans impact and interact with the State’s goals, plans and outcomes related to: (i) Economic and workforce development; (ii) education; (iii) health; (iv) civic and social engagement; (v) climate and critical infrastructure resiliency; and (vi) delivery of other essential services, especially with respect to covered populations mentioned in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law § 60303(2)(C)? 
  5. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directs states and territories to include in their digital equity plans ‘‘measurable objectives for documenting and promoting: (i) The availability of, and affordability of access to, fixed and wireless broadband technology; (ii) the online accessibility and inclusivity of public resources and services; (iii) digital literacy; (iv) awareness of, and the use of, measures to secure the online privacy of, and cybersecurity with respect to, an individual; and (v) the availability and affordability of consumer devices and technical support for those devices.’’ What best practices, if any, should states follow in developing such objectives? What steps, if any, should NTIA take to promote or require adoption of these best practices? What additional guidance and oversight about the content of the State Digital Equity Plans should NTIA provide? 

Digital Equity Coordination Requirements

  1. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires state and territories to consult with historically marginalized and disadvantaged groups, including individuals who live in low-income households, aging individuals, incarcerated individuals (other than individuals who are incarcerated in a Federal correctional facility), veterans, individuals with disabilities, individuals with a language barrier (including individuals who are English learners and have low levels of literacy), individuals who are members of a racial or ethnic minority group, and individuals who primarily reside in a rural area. What steps should NTIA take to ensure that states consult with these groups as well as any other potential beneficiaries of digital inclusion and digital equity programs, when planning, developing, and implementing their State Digital Equity Plans? What steps, if any, should NTIA take to monitor and assess these practices?  A condition for funding should be consulting with disabled residents, particularly those who suffer from wireless radiation sickness or sensitivity, such as the ElectroSensitive Society (see, https://www.electrosensitivesociety.com/).  This group is usually poor and disadvantaged.  Consulting would require: (1) providing adequate notice and allowing residents to consent or disapprove deployment until deployment meets their health requirements and accommodations satisfactory to the residents who will be affected by the deployment; (2) providing Fiber To The Premises (FTTP) as an alternative, and (3) the ability to negotiate the pricing of broadband access. 
  2. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also 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? How should NTIA assess whether a state has engaged in adequate coordination with its political subdivisions?  

Implementation of Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure (MMBI) Grant Program

This MMBI is a $1 billion program for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure. The purpose of the grant program is to expand and extend middle-mile infrastructure to reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved areas to the internet backbone. Eligible applicants include states, political subdivisions of a State, tribal governments, technology companies, electric utilities, utility cooperatives, public utility districts, telecommunications companies, telecommunications cooperatives, nonprofit foundations, nonprofit corporations, nonprofit institutions, nonprofit associations, regional planning councils, Native entities, or economic development authorities. 

  1. Middle-mile infrastructure is essential to American connectivity. Lack of affordable middle-mile access can have a substantial impact on the retail prices charged for broadband services. How should the Assistant Secretary ensure that middle-mile investments are appropriately targeted to areas where middle-mile service is non-existent or relatively expensive? To what extent should middle-mile grants be targeted to areas in which middle-mile facilities exist but cannot economically be utilized by providers that do not own them? Should NTIA target middle-mile funds to areas where interconnection and backhaul costs are impacted by a lack of competition or other high-cost factors? 
  2. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s provisions regarding the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program set out a range of considerations governing NTIA’s assessment of proposals seeking middlemile funding, including improving affordability, redundancy and resiliency in existing markets, leveraging existing rights-of-way, assets, and infrastructure, and facilitating the development of carrier-neutral interconnection points. See BIL § 60401(e), (b)(2), (d)(2). How should NTIA implement these requirements, and the others listed in the legislation, in prioritizing middlemile grant applications? 
  3. What requirements, if any, should NTIA impose on federally funded middle-mile projects with respect to the placement of splice points and access to those splice points? Should NTIA impose other requirements regarding the location or locations at which a middlemile grantee must allow interconnection by other providers? 
  4. How can the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure program leverage existing middle-mile facilities, access to rights of way, poles, conduit, and other infrastructure and capabilities that are owned, operated, or maintained by traditional and non-traditional providers (public and investor-owned utilities, grid operators, co-ops, academic institutions, cloud service providers, and others) to accelerate the deployment of affordable, accessible, high-speed broadband service to all Americans? What technical assistance or guidance should NTIA provide to encourage applications for this program? Are there examples of successful deployments and/or benefits provided by non-traditional providers to highlight?  The existing fiber can be leveraged since the backhaul for broadband infrastructure is fiber.
  5. As network demand grows, capacity needs in the middle mile and network core grow as well. What scalability requirements, if any, should NTIA place on middle-mile grant recipients?