Community Crowdsourcing Efforts Essential to Accessing Federal Broadband Funding : Broadband Breakfast

Local governments, the clock ticks.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has put billions of US dollars on the table for local government infrastructure projects. There are more guests than ever invited to the party.

This funding is a rare opportunity to connect your community to the digital economy and give everyone access. The question is: Will you be at the forefront or at the back?

Ookla can help you. This article will provide you with the information you need in order to get the funding you need for your community.

For funding, contact your state

Broadband funding has historically been very top-down.

The Federal Communications Commission held nearly all power to determine where federal broadband infrastructure funds have been spent. For the first time, however, state governments will be able to direct these decisions.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates $65 billion to improve broadband connectivity in the United States, with $42.45 Billion earmarked for new infrastructure.

Each state that has made an FCC map will receive a minimum of $100 million to get the process underway. The additional $100 million will be split between the U.S. territories.

The remaining $22 billion will be used to improve affordability. More on this later.

Officially, the race to find resources will be over.

After the initial disbursement, approximately $37 billion will be available from the IIJA alone.

Many states still hold billions of dollars from American Rescue Plan Acts. Broadband is an acceptable expenditure for these stimulus dollars.

Add to that the many connectivity programs such as Connect America Fund Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Mobility Fund and Rural 5G Fund, all of which will add up to $100 billion over ten years.

To increase your competitiveness, plan ahead

Past programs provided funding but did not set expectations for results. Planning is being given a greater importance.

Network design plays a central role in ensuring that these resources are used efficiently. The state will be allowed up to five percent to be used for designing, mapping, cost estimation and cost estimation.

Most states are planning or building their own broadband availability maps. But if you have connectivity issues in your community, it’s time to make it known to those who will be responsible for directing funds and deciding which communities will see investment and which will not.

Ookla helped Loudoun County (Virginia) secure $17 million

We have extensive experience in helping local governments navigate this difficult planning process.

FCC Form 477 broadband availability data showed nearly 100% of Loudoun’s residents have access (25 Megabits (Mbps) download and 3Mbps upload). This was inconsistent to county residents’ connectivity experiences.

Loudoun Broadband Alliance decided to use Ookla Speedtest Intelligence® to create an accurate and reliable broadband access mapping methodology using real-world network performance data.

LBA was able to identify a large number unsold households using this data in contrast with FCC data that showed them as served. Loudoun County was awarded over $17 Million in funding to eliminate the broadband gap.

The maps are not finished. They will evolve and change as your network grows.

Monitoring of funds will be necessary to ensure compliance. Older networks will also need to be monitored for signs and symptoms of deterioration. Everyone must keep an eye on progress and measure success, and have the data to take action early if projects go off-track.

Acadiana, Louisiana used Speedtest Data to win $30 Million

The Acadiana Planning Commission was successful in challenging FCC maps on more than 900 of the approximately 1,000 census blocks using Speedtest data.

The APC applied to funding through the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program. This program made $288 million available to close the digital divide in America. There were more than 230 applicants and only 13 grants were given.

Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States, visited Acadiana in March in order to announce that APC has been awarded $30 million in grants that will help fund high-speed internet access in 11 rural Acadiana areas.

Think big! Broadband funding is available for much more than infrastructure.

Access to broadband is possible only if there are at least four components: infrastructure; affordability; equipment; and knowledge. The lack of any one of these means an individual does not have access to today’s digital economy.

While infrastructure is often the main focus of attention in rural communities, it is essential for all people to be connected.

The second component, affordability is often the driving force behind the last two requirements. People who cannot afford internet service are often unable to afford the equipment and are therefore less likely to have the knowledge to use it.

These two elements are key to understanding the digital gap.

You may be eligible for funding in more areas than these four. The IIJA’s broadband section includes funding of over $14 billion for a new Affordable Connection Program.

Resting funds include $2.75B for the Digital Equity Grant Program and $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. There are also two programs that will aid the USDA in improving the internet in agricultural areas.

Local governments and agencies need to work together

Cities should be coordinating with counties and other government entities within the same region — but someone needs to be in charge.

If your local government doesn’t have a coordinator to coordinate all these efforts, there will be duplication of effort, wasted resources, stagnation of thoughts, and all the rest.

Whether this person reports directly to the chief technology officer, chief information officer, mayor, or city manager, their purpose is to understand what all departments are doing in the space and coordinate discussions, grant opportunities, and overlapping initiatives to make sure that departments aren’t working at cross purposes.

These efforts are not only beneficial for the community, but also for non-profits and local businesses.

Traffic problems won’t suddenly end at the municipal boundary. Improving traffic on one end of the line could cause more problems on the opposite side. It is important to work with neighbors as well as internal departments. Both fixed and wireless broadband infrastructures can benefit from this collaboration.

Dig-once projects will earn extra points in the competition for projects being selected.

Broadband is just one part of the $1.2 million infrastructure law. Billions of dollars are also dedicated to roads, bridges and ports.

Digging a new trench to provide clean water? Your efficient use of taxpayer money will be rewarded if you work with the project team to include fiber and conduit.

Consider funding for multiple technologies

It may seem great to connect every address in the country to fiber, but it may not be economically feasible in certain areas.

The legislation clearly states that the legislation recognizes a technology neutral approach to solutions.

While the rules regarding how the FCC will award the IIJA funds to the NTIA and deal with challenges to their findings are still not finalized, there are significantly fewer restrictions on ARPA funds already disbursed. Many connectivity projects are in progress, whether they be infrastructure development, equipment distribution, subsidies for affordable service, or subsidies.

Wireless services are a great way to connect people faster, and there are many options.

Traditional mobile operators have begun to roll out Fixed Wireless Access and 5G in certain areas, which can directly compete with traditional fixed service. Wireless internet service providers now offer coverage to homes and businesses where satellite was the only option.

To connect communities with low-income areas, schools and municipalities have set up private 4G LTE networks. Municipal Wi-Fi is still an important part of a larger solution.

A portion of families may never find subscribing to a fixed network practical, but wireless services allow for easier movement and some don’t even require a residence. Planning a fiber network is as important as understanding the availability and performance of wireless networks in your area.

And here’s a bonus — cellular and other transmission sites need fiber for any new 5G cell site. If you know the locations where your wireless networks require additional infrastructure, you can plan for fiber connections in those areas.

You still have the chance to improve and learn about connectivity issues if your state still has ARPA funding.

Ookla can help you get the data you need in order to be competitive for federal funding

Broadband is the fourth utility, as it has been said for many years.

Local governments have spent a lot of resources managing the first three: electricity, gas, water.

If one of these services becomes unavailable, even for a short time, the citizens of that area will be unhappy. These services’ resilience will be a factor in how elected officials will be judged, regardless of whether the local government provides these services or manages an external provider.

Local government officials should have the same expectations for broadband in their community.

The internet has changed the way we live our lives. Our success as residents and entrepreneurs is directly related to our access to it. Although acknowledging connectivity is a critical service may seem like a reaction to a pandemic situation, it is a trend that will continue.

That’s why Ookla is here to help you learn more about the connectivity in your area.

We’ve already helped local governments secure tens of millions of dollars in federal funding in Loudoun County VirginiaAcadiana, Louisiana. We are also working with state broadband office as well as municipalities to improve their visibility into network availability.

If you want your community to take advantage of the billions pouring into improving connectivity, get in line before it’s too late.

Drawn from billions of Speedtest results, Ookla’s Broadband Performance Dataset provides governments, regulators, ISPs, and mobile operators with insights about the state of fixed networks and broadband accessibility. The Broadband Performance Dataset allows you to identify unsold and underserved areas and prioritize investment opportunities to improve broadband accessibility. You can also challenge funding decisions and apply for grants.

Learn more about Speedtest Intelligence, Broadband Performance Dataset, and other solutions that can be used by your state and/or local governments. Please contact us.

Bryan Darr serves as the Vice President of Smart Communities for Ookla. He coordinates Ookla’s outreach to local, state and federal governments and serves on CTIA’s Smart Cities Business & Technology Working Group. This was the first time this piece was published. published on Ookla’s web siteThis article was originally published in the following:

Broadband Breakfast is open to comments from informed observers of broadband. Please send pieces to [email protected] Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC do not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in Expert Opinion pieces.

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