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:
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:
Among the most important issues for debate include these questions:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.