SOTN2022 06 Once In A Generation Broadband Boost. Can Government Overcome The Hurdles and Close The Gap?
6:08PM Mar 3, 2022
Thank you so much today for joining us for the panel once in a generation broadband boost, can government overcome the hurdles and close the gap? I name is Amy shots. I'm SVP over at Glen Echo group. And we're so excited to be here today. If the pandemic showed us nothing else over the last two years is that broadband has become an indispensable part of our work and home lives. gaps and access may be closing things to years of investment, but they're still there. And there's a sizable portion the US population which remains voluntarily, which means voluntarily unconnected at home, whether deterred by high prices or just a lack of interest, thanks to two massive pieces of legislation, the infrastructure investment and jobs act, which set aside $65 billion for broadband. And the American rescue plan acts $350 billion, some of which goes to broadband, there's a lot of money about to splash around. So how do we make sure that this investment finally closes the broadband gap and gets all Americans online? How do we make sure that it isn't wasted? And once the broadband is there? How do we make sure that it's used to enrich our lives the way that we know digital connectivity can our panel today we'll be exploring these issues and more. So I will introduce them. Although not order, because it's my only thing? That I will actually yeah, so Ross Hanser is the director of communications policy initiatives at NTIA which is handing out lots of money. So rest is very popular guys these days. Just wonder is the director of capital projects funded the Treasury Department, which is also handing out a lot of those ARPA billions also very popular guy. You know, there's a few more zeros, I think with both of us. Katherine, who is project manager, project director for fuse broadband access initiative, and Paul Garnet is founder of the Vernon Berg group, a consulting firm that recently released an ebook about effective administration of state and local broadband programs to highly recommend you check out because it was really interesting. Before we began a little bit housekeeping, we'll leave at least 10 minutes at the end of the program for audience questions. So please jot those down. And if you're going to tweet about the panel, please be nice and don't say mean things about us. But if you do say mean things, please at least use the conference hashtag slash state of the net, S O T n 22. Okay, let's get into it. So let's begin with Justin Ross, no pressure, but you guys have a lot of money to hand out. And I want each of you to give a high level overview of your program, how much money you have your top line requirements and your timeline, rescue wanna start?
Sure, and thanks for everyone for being here. And thank you to state of the net for inviting me. So we at NTIA are administering and developing a bunch of programs, some of which predate the infrastructure act, I'm going to talk about three programs initiated by the infrastructure act. So overall infrastructure Act gave $48 billion to NDAA to distribute for broadband adoption and deployment, digital equity and related stuff. Three programs the largest by far is the broadband equity access and deployment program, the bead program, that is $42.45 billion. Second is the middle mile broadband infrastructure program. That's $1 billion. And then the third is the actually a few programs initiated by the digital Equity Act $2.75 billion. So to be program, again, the largest is a state grant program. So we will be giving money to states which will then be sub granting funds to build broadband networks that that program is geared toward deployment. First and foremost, the aim here is to serve all unserved areas, getting them up to 100, at least 100 megabytes by 20 megabytes per second speeds. And then money is left over to for in a particular state to then serve underserved areas that are areas that had broadband, but under the 120. Benchmark, and to bring service up to 120 or better. And then and then after those two priorities, money to get given out to the community anchor institutions to get CI is up to one gigabyte apiece. And then in a given area. If there's money leftover after that there are other things that the state or territory will be able to do with the money, including non deployment aims, things like adoption programs, and digital equity and digital inclusion and so on. So we are working hard to put those put that program together, we will be issuing a Notice of Funding Opportunity on or by May 16. And you Schwartzman is going to be my honor by May 16.
But better news of the day, May 16 May 16, we're not going to
honor by May 16. So so that's one, the middle mile program is a competitive grant program where folks will be applying directly to NTIA. Again $1 billion the aims they are building out middle mile infrastructure, both in areas where it does not exist, and in some cases in areas where it may exist, but maybe competitive choke point or bottleneck where where redundancy is just going to be useful. The Act talks about for example, national security objectives in program, the digital Equity Act initiates three or depending on how you count two programs, the first two are a state planning grant program and then a state capacity grant program. Those are closely linked. That's that's the discrepancy in the two versus three, how you count those. But collectively, those will be giving out $1.5 billion, again, through states or state designated entities that are going to advance well, so the first phase of the program is the planning grant program, we're going to be issuing a NOFO on that program. In the spring, let's call it very close to the other one, if not, if not the same time. So that is going to be going to states to develop digital equity plans, and then states that go through that can come back to us later for the what's called the the capacity grant program. And the money that they get from that capacity grant program will then be used to effectuate the state digital equity plans. And then later on, there'll be a competitive grant program for $1.25 billion, but by statute that that waits until after the capacity grant program is up and running. So that's a broad overview happy to provide more detail later.
Thanks. Thanks for having me. It's really good to be here. So Joey Wender, director of the capital projects fund at Treasury. So the American rescue plan was passed almost a year ago, which is much earlier than the money that was appropriated to NTIA, our the goal of our money is to respond directly to the COVID pandemic, the problems have been created and exacerbated by the pandemic. And so Amy reference $350 billion for state and local relief earlier, I'm also going to talk primarily about the capital projects Fund, which was $10 billion that was specifically allocated to improving connectivity around the country. So what are these programs? And what are we doing with them? So the capital projects fund, as I'm sure you all know, is slight or light on statutory language. And so we've interpreted the 10 billion to mean that there are three presumptively eligible uses for states to use the money. And those three presumptively eligible uses are one broadband, to his digital technology. So think laptops, computers, but also public Wi Fi, and third, or multi purpose community centers. Now, the states already know what they've been allocated. In our in the capital projects fund, they got that allocation already in the fall, it ranges anywhere from about 100 million to in the 500 millions for state of California. And so the States, we've already executed grant agreements with all the states they have that they know what they can spend. And, in fact, they are already drawing down money for administrative funds for preparing for planning, which I'm sure Katherine will talk about in a minutes. And so we're already at the timeline or the stage where we're receiving grant plans from states on how they want to use their entire allocation. And already we're seeing there's a huge emphasis on broadbands. Now, we haven't made any of those announcements, we haven't awarded any, but we are churning through them currently. And we're hoping for soonish, I'm not going to say anything more, I'm not going to put a date on it. But soonish is our hope. Because again, it all comes back to the initial objective of our funds is to respond to the pandemic, it's an emergency funds. Let me talk for a second about state and local funds. And then I'm going to speak for a second about the guidelines or the rules that are in place. So I talked about the 10 billion for the capital projects fund. In addition, as Amy said, every state is state and localities got 350 billion in the American rescue plan, essentially, to plug in all the holes that were created, as we were very, very deep in a terrible place in the pandemic. Now, as we're starting to come out of the pandemic knock on wood, a lot of states have there's so money sitting there broadband is one of many eligible uses of state and local, like many, many, many eligible uses. That being said, we know that there are a number of states that are also planning to use those funds on broadbands. The rules that are attached to those funds are the same as are essentially the same as our rules. They're published in different places, but they mirror each other. And the bottom line is in terms of our use of funds, so we're requiring 100 symmetrical build outs, which is a little different than NTIA, that's our requirements, unless it's not practicable for topography, topographical geographic excessive cost reasons. And then the burden is on states to come to us and say this is why we can't achieve those speeds. The other requirement is that any provider that they use has to be a participant in the ACP, the affordability program. The final thing I'll say, and then I'll turn it over to Katherine is, again, the big distinction between us and NTA is not only our build out standard, but it's also where states are allowed to spend the money. So we have given States a lot of flexibility. And we're encouraging states to spend their broadband money in any place in any location that is both unserved or underserved, meaning anywhere that that has a speed below 100 by 20. And this is, I think, one of the hallmarks of our program, and something that governor's really like, they really like this flexibility. They're very excited and happy about it. And I think it helps them work through how do they see all these money in a holistic manner, in order to in the end, you know, close the digital divide in their states. So happy to answer questions when we're done with the panel.
Great. So Katherine, I'd like you and Paul to talk about, are the states ready for this? This is an enormous amount of money. There's a lot of complexity here. Some of these states have brought in offices or agencies, but that hasn't necessarily provided prevented waste or fraud, or just, you know, incompetence, I say sometimes in the past. So what kind of challenges are they facing
here? I think when it comes to the question of state readiness, I think that they are as ready as they possibly can be, given the rapid scale up, that we've seen just in the last 12 months, as well as the fact that some states really are building their programs from scratch, we are seeing more states expand their operational footprint. They're staffing up, they are hiring in a broader range of expertise. From Sorry, I have this like, right up under my mouth. Sorry, you guys. But they're hiring at a range of expertise. From community outreach, to compliance to telecommunications engineering, I think what we're seeing across states is recognizing, as Joey said, the really holistic opportunity that they have here. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't come without, you know, steep barriers and expectations. I will also say that part of the complexity, this moment is related to the fact that states are only have some measure of responsibility over really two sources of funds that are flowing into states right now from the federal government. We just heard about those two, there are other sources of funds coming in from the FCC, USDA. So there's a lot of, we'll call it complexity that states are trying to navigate right now. But at the end of the day, what we have seen, particularly over the last two years, but sorry, not to put on my research, or you know, glasses here, but I will, we saw in the last few years, just an acceleration of what was already happening at the state level with state lawmakers, governors and agencies taking aggressive action on thinking about not only closing the digital divide, but thinking about closing the digital divide in a way that ensures equitable access and opportunity across their states.
Okay, so just just to add to what was just said. So I think that, you know, this is absolutely sort of an unprecedented moment has tons of money going to states, counties, cities, even towns. So it's not just that it's going to stay it's it's also going to, you know, this is, so whilst a lot of states will already have broadband offices, or they already have been running a small broadband grant program. In many most cases, it's unlikely that a county or city or even in town, what have already been doing that so. So that definitely adds to the complexity of this. And, you know, what we see is that at the local level, you know, local administrators are spread thin, they have to cover a lot of different issues. They're getting, you know, general buckets of money to go spend on programming and they don't know what broadband is, they don't know what a megabit is, or, you know, what symmetrical broadband is, and all these sort of issues. So there's definitely a learning curve, they're all having to go up. So both so both at the state level and and locally, and then you know, what that adds is, is, you know, need to coordinate that's like unprecedented. I mean, just the massive I mean, just coordination at the federal level. Now we've got all the all these different players who are now involved broadband funding in federal government now down at the state level, then even within states, different offices, different responsibilities. You know, some some money might have gone to the State Department of Education that they're using on on broadband, another might go to the state's broadband office, so And then likewise down down to the local So a lot of coordination there. And then the other area is the whole area of of, you know, waste fraud and abuse and administration and the need to put, you know, programming in place and measures in place to ensure that the money that goes out the door is done in an appropriate fashion. And then once it's out the door, there's all kinds of accountability built in there and and whoever is administering these programs knows that the money is being spent appropriately and, and that there's ramifications for for for when things might actually go wrong. So definitely a complex environment we're now in.
Yeah, glad you brought up the idea of coordination. Because you had a great slide and when your deck that she sent me that which kind of like talks a little bit about all the money that was going out there, right. So we have the bead program bead program was 42 billion the affordable connectivity program, which the FCC is doing 14 point 2 billion digital equity grant program NTIA 2.7 5 billion. The ARPA Coronavirus capital projects Joey's fund with 10 billion, then the Coronavirus, state local fiscal funds 350 350 billion, and the emergency connectivity program at the FCC, which is 7.1 7 billion. I mean, coordination of all of these many, many programs that have lots of zeros after them is a lot. How are you guys? How are you coordinating on those? How do you coordinate with the FCC, USDA to make sure that you're not hitting the same people, and that the states are not going to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of paperwork they might have to do here.
So I'll start, I'll let you start. So rest assured, there's a great deal of coordination being being undertaken, really at all levels. So for example, my boss, Alan Davidson, is in regular contact with the chairwoman at the FCC talks with others. But, you know, in addition to that, there's lots of sort of staff to staff interaction, I am on the phone or, you know, on the Zoom or on the teams with my counterparts at the FCC at USDA, weekly, if not more than weekly, we have someone at NTIA whose job is federal coordination who's been in very close contact with Joey's team. There's a very strong recognition that the only way to reach our federal objectives with respect to deploy with with respect to coverage and with respect to equity, are if we're all working in tandem as part of the same team. Our statute has a requirement that we make sure we are aligning and not duplicating the funding. And we're taking that very seriously. Because among other things, at the end of the day, my ultimate boss, the Secretary has said we want every American to have access to affordable, reliable, and robust broadband. And that doesn't happen without that coordination, we need all the funds to be working together. And that entails a lot of policy decision making, because there's a lot of money that has been allocated, but not yet spent. So we have to think hard about what networks are actually in the ground, whatever is going to be in the ground a few years from now when the money is going out, or when the money is being used. And we're working closely again, with our with our counterparts and internally as well. I want to say a minute also about state coordination. One thing that has really impressed me since joining NTIA, about a little over six months ago now is the intensity and the care with which both folks at NTIA and folks in the states take that relationship. We have very regular meetings, I have presented to state broadband leaders multiple times already, I have colleagues whose job that is to do that much more than I do. There's a meeting this week of the state broadband leaders coming into town. And we are in contact with those folks really on a daily basis or more. The B program, as I mentioned, and the digital equity capacity and planning grant programs as well are state programs. And we take really seriously the partnership there. Allen Davidson has said that that partnership is really critical to the success of all these programs. And I've been fortunate to spend lots of time in rooms and on zooms with Alan and the thing I've heard from him most is how do we make sure this is administrable by the states. You know, we here at NTIA have a big staff, and it's hard for us to you know, make sure everything works in tandem. We do it but but you know it takes we have to work. So how are we going to make sure that states can get this done? Because if that piece of the puzzle doesn't work, then the program doesn't work. So we're very focused on that coordination as well.
I only add to what Russ said. I mean, the state and local economy, the state broadband Leaders Conference is a perfect example. They're all coming to town this week. And Treasury is going to be both keynoting and doing a q&a session. So we will actually be there in the same room with both NTA. And with state leaders. I mean, think Russ is right. It's coordination at the federal level. And it's coordination between feds and the state level. A couple things I want to add is that the goal that that Russ was just talking about that the Secretary has for you is really the goal that the President and the Vice President have charged all of us with it's creating or it's ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable high speed reliable Internet. And so that's why we've had a lot of involvement as well from the White House doing weekly, or every other week meetings with the White House between us, Treasury, White House Ag, FCC and TA to ensure that we're all swimming in the right direction or the same direction, so that that type of coordination is coming from the highest levels. Two other quick things I want to say is, we've already seen that it's just it's the coordination has already gotten to the point of more than talk. The example is, since we're first, which is both a blessing and a curse, we're gonna have to tell all of our recipients, the states, and how they're going to report to us on the use of funds, we're gonna have to put out guidance this spring that says, Hey, guys, as you're making these awards, as you're working with your sub recipients, ISPs, you got to make sure that they're going to provide you with this type of information, which is, obviously the basics are households that have been served, right, and what at what speeds. And so we have had a number of meetings with the NTIA, with the FCC, and with the White House to ensure that the data sets, those elements are consistent with what they're all going to collect, and what they're all going to use to populate this, which we'll get to later this big map and the fabric of this map that will one day exist. So we want to make sure that we're going to be able to compare apples to apples, that our information, the data that we collect is able to be fed up into what MTA and the FCC are working on. So that is a very tangible effort that has a huge impact in the future. And we are way out in front on it to ensure that we're doing the right thing.
So I'm glad you brought up the mapping issue, because I think none
and then I will not talk about the maps anymore, because our program is not dependent on
Can I have one quick showing on the coordination piece? I think first, it's we should give credit where credit is due that states have been doing this actually for quite some time already on their own. There are several states that have had formal interagency initiatives for I'm not actually going to do the math. But for many years, California is one North Carolina is another main is another one. And what they have done is again, bring these different stakeholders to the table, whether there is direct or indirect funding that can be used for broadband to say, why are we making this investment? And how do we make sure that this investment is actually going to yield the results that we want. So when we are talking about the the readiness and the collaboration that is needed, we have already seen states, leverage these interagency workforces to inform plans to inform spending decisions. At this point, it is now about thinking about those direct uses of funds where broadband isn't explicit usage or intent. And then some of the more indirect usage of funds, like I don't know if we're smart grid updates. So how do we make sure that there's clarity at the federal level that their partners in the states are getting the information that they need. And then of course, there's information happening, and information sharing between state governments, or excuse me, between state agencies, I was remiss and should have mentioned this in my first response, this is one of the things that my team is working on with states right now is helping them think through some of this interagency coordination, how to work with their colleagues, and how to also work with local stakeholders.
So I think it really does get to this idea, too. And I think as we're getting back to the data and the coordination, and getting to this map issue, which obviously Joy does want to talk about, and for us probably doesn't either, although likely to be you know, it you don't, it's really hard to figure out where to get this money if you don't know where the broadband is and where it isn't. Right. And this is something that comes up has been problem for many, many, many years now. And I guess the question is to anyone in the group here, why is this so hard? Why is it so hard to get a decent Broadband Map of a state of federal is it just that we're collecting? The SEC still is collecting terrible information? Like why is this so hard this many years later? I don't know. Paul, if you want to start Yeah,
I can start. So I actually, you know, I do a lot with with broadband data, not just in the US but but also abroad. And I just to start with, I think we generally have this habit in the US of just bashing ourselves, we're, me as a country, we're somewhat inward looking, we don't necessarily look to what others are doing. And I think, you know, as I think they're absolutely legitimate complaints about FCC broadband data, and the FCC has done a lot, a lot of work over time to improve that. But I do work in Africa, and other places around the world and they don't have any data from from from operators. So it's all relying upon third party data sources to come up with to develop policies. So So I think it's I think it's important for us to remember that you know, I think you No, it's not far from perfect. But but at least we do have, we do have decent data, and it's pretty granular. And it's reported, you know, twice a year by by operators. But certainly, certainly it can be improved. The FCC, just last week announced the broadband data collection, the new name, formerly known as drdc. And so we're gonna have operators, both mobile and fixed line operators, begin to report data under the new data collection regime in the second half of this year. So basically, as of as of June, June 30. Of this year, so you know, so that's it. That's, that's really good news. It's not happening as fast as anyone would have liked. But but it is happening. So So that's the first thing, I think the next thing is that there are other data sources that can help to complement what what the FCC collects States certainly have been doing a lot sort of in the in, you know, in this sort of intermediary period, like Georgia is a good example of having collected some good maps recently, that basically, in a way, sort of get ahead of the FCC in a good way. So states or states are doing a lot there. And and then, you know, I think the carrier data can also be supplemented by surveying, which is what pew does an amazing job at. So a lot of the work they do with consumer surveying on broadband adoption and usage is super helpful. And then there are a variety of third party sources, a lot of the tech companies have have a lot of interesting data. I was at Microsoft for a dozen years. And we we did a lot of work on on on broadband usage. And I think that helped to push some of the some of the changes in policymaking there. So So I think it's not perfect. I think we're gonna get there. You know, everyone's feeling the pressure the FCC made their announcement last week. And I think hopefully, we'll get to that point soon, where we have a good data set, that can be the basis for a lot of these funding mechanisms.
What I'd add to that is putting the question out of why are we collecting this data? What are we trying to solve for with this data collection? And I think that there is the idea of, you know, are we trying to get this perfect understanding of where broadband isn't, is not? What's the utility of that, of that data, where we've seen states, as Paul noted, invest in more data collection is really not just getting to that granular level, which I will add, they do a lot of like local surveying, in order to, you know, combine sources of data. They're also collecting information on existing assets, on what other federal investments have been made in that area, or state investments so they can build out on prior public investments. So are we really building a map or a data set that is about giving us that very perfect understanding of availability or quality? Or is it about building a data set that's going to help us make better decisions with public funding. And it's not an either or, but it does require different sources of information.
I think that makes an excellent point. And it kind of rolls into this next idea of like a lot of this money, obviously, a lot of money over the last of the years have been spent on building up these networks. And so we do have a lot more connectivity than we used to. But this does get to this idea of adoption and other money that there's little pot sounds like there's little pots of money all over NTIA for various programs like this. So if you looked at the last FCC last report last year, which who knows that that is great, not so 98% of Americans have access, fixed broadband networks. But then if you look crunch pew data, that only 23% of Americans, just 20% 23% of Americans don't subscribe home broadband for various reasons. So if you build it, they were supposed to come right, but they're not. So how do you do that? How do you get to that next level? And I wonder, Catherine, if you'd like to start on this. And then if others want to join in on what are these programs going to really aim to do? And how are you spending this money to try to get everybody online?
Guess and I appreciate the question and my colleagues do do great research on the broadband adoption data. So I think it's important to acknowledge that there are very real barriers to broadband adoption. Cost is certainly one of them. And that's for middle and low income families. That's cost of subscription that is also cost for devices and maintenance of those devices and equipment. There is the issue of why does this matter to me, why is this worth spending my monthly, you know, my monthly household budget on broadband, but I think that's why it's so important and why this moment in policy is so important because we are now getting beyond of the connection for connection sake. This is about the health of our economy. This is about having access. As to education to healthcare. This is about helping communities participate in today's economy. And this is again, where we get back to the idea of diverse stakeholder engagement and collaboration and planning in order to make sure that, yes, the infrastructure programs, but also the adoption initiatives to make sure that they are focused on these, what we would call on my team, secondary measures of success related to economic, educational and health outcomes. We need input from those other stakeholders. That's a reason why P was launching group called opportunity broadband. Stay tuned for that. But we the goal of that is to bring together these sort of stakeholders who don't traditionally work in broadband and in tech, from health care from education, I'm talking about for profit entities, nonprofit entities, to really focus on that, why, how do we get to that why? And by I think, emphasizing the why and the planning process. And by bringing those other voices in, that's how we ultimately get to the high rate of adoption that we're aiming for and that the administration is, is working towards
nest. only other thing I'd like to add is to emphasize that's another reason why, if you take our funds, you have to participate in the affordability program at the FCC, right? So it's an explicit way to say that if you're going to build out these networks, you have to make it affordable to those that you build them out to. So that's for us access, and affordability, and equity, are all our driving principles. It's not just about access. And I think everything that Catherine said is right. I think that most of what Catherine said is right.
So I'll just add, so the programs I'm working on are infrastructure Act programs, and one of the great facets of the infrastructure act, from my perspective is that it is the maybe first or maybe near first time that federal law is looking specifically at equity questions. So we talked about adoption. And adoption is super important. And for me, affordability is a huge piece of that adoption puzzle. I'm sure there are some people for whom broadband is literally not relevant. But I suspect, if we solved the affordability question, the relevance question would change to right, right now, I don't think having a yacht is especially relevant to my life. But if I had $10 billion, maybe I changed my mind. So if people could afford it, it may become more relevant. So we are very focused on affordability across all the programs and what we can do to promote affordability, by the way, not just for the folks who are eligible for the ACP, but for all Americans, what can we do to make broadband more affordable across the board. But then the equity piece, I think, is super important. And it's maybe the part that jazzes me the most about my job right now. Which is we are now focusing I think, in a way we hadn't before on not just adoption across the board, but the equity gaps. What is the import of not speaking English on your ability and interest and you know, ability to get online? What is the import of Catherine mentioned this, but you're sort of not just the subscription, but your ability to get to device or to know how to set this up? What is the importance of not having digital literacy skills that are fundamental to getting online? What is the impact of not having the ability to learn to acquire workforce related broadband skills to be part of a 21st century workforce, those are all equity concerns, the equity comes up, of course, in our digital Equity Act programs, but it also is important to note that it's central to the bead program. So we like to say that we like to remind people that the E in B stands for equity. And without it, it would just be a bad program. So so so we are we are really focused on that. And that is a key part of getting people online.
That was really good. Plus, plus the other. Yeah, plus, plus the jazz reference. I thought that was really smooth.
So I think
I'm sorry, yeah, so I think so. Alright. So on the adoption side, if you I mean, if you look at the data, right, I mean, there's a serious availability gap in the US no question about it. And, and, and there's a lot of obviously a lot of resources being devoted at addressing that challenge. And if I think I think if you weren't following all of this, you know, super closely, you would think that all the money is being is supposed to be spent on infrastructure. And actually, that's not the case. Fortunately, there's a lot of flexibility in all of the federal statutes that have come about in the last couple of years that allow funding to be used for both both, you know, addressing the availability gap and also the adoption gap and You know, so I think that's really important. The other the other thing that I think is critical to point out is one of the aspects of the IGA is that every state or every eligible entity has to do a five year broadband plan. So it's like every state has to do the equivalent of what you know, the FCC did many years ago with its national broadband plan. And I think as part of those plans, it's gonna be really important for states to include digital equity into into those programs. So have goals in those plans, not just about, you know, availability, but also around digital equity. So what am I going to do in three years? What are what am I gonna do in five years, those kinds of issues. The other thing, you know, we point out in the paper that we just did around broadband principles in terms of your developing those plans, there are certain principles you should follow. One of them is digital equity, by design, we feel that every program needs to have digital equity built into it, even if it's an availability program, like like what Joseph was talking about, in terms of funding that the Treasury is overseeing. And then, on the ACP, it's a bit of a good news, bad news situation with the ACP. Vice President Harris announced I don't know it was last week, the week before that, already 10 million households are participating in the ACP. That's awesome. That's great news. But there are 36 million households in the US, that could qualify for the ACP. And Congress only gave the FCC $14 billion for this. So at current rates, even even if no note, no one else signs up for the ACP, the money's gonna run out in two or three years. And, of course, we want more people to subscribe to be subscribing to the ACP, so the money is gonna run out even faster than that. So I think, you know, one thing Congress could do is actually give the FCC more money. So they can actually make this make this program more permanent, or at least last longer. But But the other thing is states and counties and local governments can do a lot to supplement the ACP. So the ACP reduced the subsidy from 50 to $30, on on a monthly subscription, that may leave a gap, for some subscribers, they're now going to have to pay for some portion of that. So with the flexibility that they've been given in terms of funding, maybe they can, you know, top up the ACP and add some additional funding for low income households. Likewise, they can probably be doing more on on device eligibility, there are some restrictions there that may, for example, in a larger household, limit that household to only one device where perhaps two or three might be helpful to that family. And then I think some of your points you're making around other adoption programs, we got to go local on adoption, right? So this is really complicated and hard. And we don't really even know the answer, necessarily. We know, we know that there are a lot of reasons why people don't adopt, it's not just because of affordability. They just may not trust programs may not trust the government, they may be in a particular group, maybe they're undocumented, or, or in another group where they're, they're very wary of any anything they see as a government program. So So there, there are things that local governments can be doing with community based organizations who may have closer relationships with these communities, to help to increase, you know, service and device adoption.
So as we're talking about these five year plans, and everything, and I have tons more questions, but I also know that, Senator, you know, we're the last thing before lunch, and we want to make sure that there's time for audience questions, too. So I do have other questions. But I will like, this will probably be my last one. Unless folks don't have questions. And I have a bunch of them the rest doesn't want to answer. But let's talk about measuring success. If we're talking five years down the road, maybe 10? I don't know for us, but for five years down the road, what does success look like to you for these programs? What do you hope, this looks like? And everyone on the panel? Whoever wants to start?
Yeah, I mean, so not to like plug the paper too much. But in this paper that we did, we did come up with sort of a, you know, an example of what one what one might come up with in terms of goals, it's, first of all, it's extremely important to have goals in the first place. So and that's why this these broadband plans are critically important. But, you know, I think undertaking the prioritization that that was created in the IGA around, okay, let's target support to where it's needed the most first. So let's get all those households in the US that don't have access to 25, three, broadband, let's get them up above the 120 number. So tackle that first. Then, second priority go after those households that are sort of between 25 Three, and 120. Make sure they're all so in a five year period can we get to all of those households? You know, maybe that's a goal incrementally and no have intermediate steps along the way. And then on the adoption side, we want to increase the adoption numbers in households that are less than $30,000 per household. adoption rates are terrible in this country that are below 60%, according to Pew, so what can we do to increase adoption? Is there is there a benchmark we can you know, is it is 80%? Is it 90%? Over time? What do we want to hit? Likewise, digital skills is a critical issue around adoption. So, is there is there a percentage of the population, we want to have at least basic digital skills? So those kinds of those kinds of goals, I think, you know, are critical. Catherine,
I would second what Paul said. And one, you know, setting, there are the goals from the federal government that are funding requirements, there are the goals that the states themselves will set, which are going to reflect local priorities, state based priorities and where they, where they see their state, being able to best benefit and leverage these dollars. I also do think that there are getting back to your earlier point about accountability, how have these states state or how have these funds been spent? Is there oversight in place? Are we able to do sort of the evaluation as states are administering these funds to say what's working? What's not? How are we improving, improving delivery to again, improve outcomes? I think also from both a policy and public policy discourse standpoint, I would really like to see more discussion about moving away from this sort of binary is broadband available? Is it not? Is it affordable? Is it not to really thinking about the quality of that connection? How are people actually using these connections to improve their lives? What does affordable actually mean? I'm in all of those things kind of coming together in our assessment of connectivity,
really, not much more to add, because that was very comprehensive. The only thing I would say the only the only thing I would add, though, is you could see it reflected in our rules. And in our guidelines of what we're trying to achieve. Right? It's fast, reliable, affordable, broadband, wherever states are using our funds to build outs. And so we're trying to drive, we're using our rules to try to drive states and drive localities towards the goal that we all have. Now, I think the hard part is and that's why the White House is so engaged on it, is that not one of our programs can achieve the full goal, right? But it's together, if we coordinate well, and properly, we can achieve it because it's 10 billion can't do it. 42 and a half, amazingly, can't do it. But you know, together we can.
So I'm gonna, I'm gonna close this out by being idealistic, because we're early on in our program. So I'm going to say that, I think success ultimately, I don't know if it's five years or 10. But success ultimately looks like a world in which virtually every American has robust and affordable broadband. What exactly that looks like in terms of technology choice. Now we'll have to see it will depend on costs and so on. But we are looking for a world in which everyone has access not only by the way access at 100 by 20. But access at least 200 by 20, on the way to a gig on the way to 10 gigs, and maybe beyond depending on what the use cases are. Because you know, the one thing that during the 1996 Act recognizes the FCC has recognized, I think all broadband experts recognizes that the definition of broadband is evolving and is changing. When I started working at the FCC in 2003. The definition of broadband was 200 kilobits a second one way. So we need to be thinking about today, but we are assuming maybe this is right, maybe it's not. And for me, hopefully it's not. But we're assuming that this is the last time we get this much money given for a long time. So we want to get it right and use it in a way that closes those gaps and is looking toward the future. And then I'd also say success also looks like closing the equity gaps. And I don't know if adoption gets to 100. But we'd like to get as close to 100 for everyone as possible. And I think that will take a reconceptualization for many people of the role broadband plays in our lives. It's not a luxury, it's not a yacht, it shouldn't feel like a yacht, right, it is essential. We know, you know, people like to say that we learn from the pandemic. I like to say we knew before the pandemic but the pandemic really hammered in, we need it for education, for health care, for work for play for civic engagement, etc, etc. And if that's the case, then we need it to be available to everyone
that you want to audience questions. Absolutely. Okay, so I think we're gonna need you to speak at the microphone. Identify yourself, and we'll still Katherine's mic
Andy Schwarzman Benton Institute for broadband and society. It's just great to see everybody but it also it's really important presentations of these important programs. My question is for us, which is one of the things that Alan Davidson has stressed in his testimony last week, was that NTIA is going to appoint a coordinator for each state, which I just think is, is a great idea and, and builds on experience from the beat top programming. It's just absolutely right. Can you talk a little bit more about how that's gonna be stood up? Where you're finding people who are going to be knowledgeable? And will these people just be sort of a? Well, if you call them up, they're gonna say, Well, you talk to this person at NTIA or will they serve as a kind of ombuds or advocate for their state?
So great questions. And I'm just going to start by noting that Alan is going to be speaking here later this afternoon. So I urge people to attend that and post questions to him as well. My understanding, I don't want to pretend I am I have perfect knowledge here. My understanding is that it will be more the latter than the former that there will be someone who is assigned to each state, and is that state's point of contact, but also in some sense that state's advocate and virtual that sort of the guide through not that the program is held to make the Dante reference but but that that person's guide, Sherpa, yeah, so it will be it will be that state's guide. And, again, we envision this as an ongoing relationship, we envision lots of consultation and dialogue. I like to say and I'll just emphasize, I'm speaking for myself, I don't know that Alan has said this. But I like to say that the ideal here is not that states take our no phone, go back and hide for however long and then come back to us with their presentation, which we sort of thumbs up or thumbs down. The ideal is that we are engaged in a dialogue throughout the process and discussing with the state, how it intends to meet its goals, how it intends to meet federal goals, how we're performing or not performing with the statute and the requirements in the NOFO. But I would envision Andy that the person assigned to a particular state is the lead for that state on all that interaction and has, you know, by the end of this process, or maybe by early in this process, that person knows the cell phone numbers of all the relevant people in the state and vice versa. And they are on, you know, first name basis. And, and, and have really gotten to know each other because again, that coordination is critical. And I know that's one of Alan's top top priorities.
I only want to add, and Alan didn't say this, but I'll note it. That's already what we do. At treasury. There is a person on our staff on our outreach team that has a point of contact in each states that talks to their state contact every week is already doing that. So I'm not saying he stole our idea. I'm merely stating that he might have. I'll leave it at that.
So I still want Russ to answer the question about broadband mapping. But I'll let somebody else ask that because I'm Mari Sobey. With us Ignite. We're a nonprofit, one of the things we do is help to get broadband help to communities to figure out their broadband deployment strategies. And I'm curious what people's advice is. So for folks at the community or local level, what is the best advice in terms of how they get their needs communicated to the you know that the funding that's coming through at the state level? What what advice should we share with our community partners?
So I'll just say quickly that I've talked about state coordination. And I've talked about federal inter federal interagency coordination. But local coordination is also critical. I can't say anything that's going to be in a row, but I suspect you will find some requirements well, that the act has requirements regarding local coordination. So that's no surprise. But we, yesterday, well, Friday, the last business day, I spent a lot of time talking with people about how we can ensure that localities have their voices heard and the state processes and how we can exercise some oversight into that. It's no secret that sometimes localities are not aligned with the state government and vice versa. So we are focused on that and there will be formal Our vision is that there'll be formal opportunities and requirements with respect to state local interaction. And while I'm at it, I'm just gonna say we're also thinking hard about interaction and coordination with civil society organizations because they are an important piece of the puzzle too. You know, you can't do digital equity. If you're not talking to civil rights groups, you can't do you can't do adoption if you're not talking to NDIA, etc, etc.
So it's a couple of things. It's exactly what Russ outlined, there will be formal requirements in place for how state law Local Governments may work together state regional governments, as well as local organizations. One thing that we're also working on with states right now is building on existing processes within government, whether it's economic planning, whether that's transportation planning, where do they already have these systems and procedures in place that they can build on existing capacity? Because there's no need? I'm sorry, I'm going to say it, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. And I also think to, you know, to your original question about how do you encourage your locals to get involved, reach out to their state broadband office, call them say, Hi, what do you need from us? What information do you need? How can we help? Here, let me talk to you about where we see the challenges in boundaries, the more that we can facilitate that coordination. And the more that the state offices hear from the localities and their local organizational partners, the more responsive programs states will be able to build follow. I don't know if you have anything you'd like to add?
Yeah, just a couple. I mean, it's great the work you're doing. And I don't think this I don't think you intended this with a question. But I think hiring an expert is a good idea. If you're, if you're trying to figure this out at the accounting level, for example. And the other thought I have is, you know, I don't know whether you're doing this already, but I think model plans, you know, like is they're not to tell them what they have to do, but like, you know, are their model, you know, five year plans that that they could utilize, so that, you know, you know, you're not reinventing the wheel every single because because these things don't have to deviate massively. I mean, there definitely there going to be some differences in the details, but I think developing some sort of model plan or strategy for for, you know, local governments, and then just letting them, you know, essentially riff off that a little bit of you. Good idea.
We have a question over here.
And this was Trevor cloud public affairs. Question for Russ and or Joey, the NTIA and money that is anti money. The IGA money is tied to the FCC map, and it is targeting unserved and underserved. Right, the Treasury guidance, as I read the latest guidance says you can use any available data set it's not tied to the FCC map. So in theory, those projects could move forward first, and it explicitly kind of encourages, quote, unquote, overbuilding. I know that's a loaded term. But um, is there a concern that given that the IGA projects have to wait, stimulus? ARB projects can go first? That's, you know, equipment, supply chains, semiconductors, all workforce, all of the industries facing those challenges across the board? Is there a concern that those projects will move first, gobble up those resources, and then by the time anyone's ready to do the underserved and unserved projects, because the FCC map comes out that those projects are going to struggle to procure the resources they need, because cities will be building a second, third, fourth network. Under the Treasury guidelines, there seems to be a disconnect in the federal policy between what Congress said and what Treasury said. So I'm curious if you think that's an issue.
Two things I want to respond to first, I do want to make a note about the word overbilled, again, our guidance encourages build out anywhere that lacks speeds of 120. And by our definition, if you don't have a speed of 120, you do not have high speed Internet. Right, which is that's like the that's clear from Treasury's perspective. In terms of the supply chain issue. Yeah, it's a problem. Of course, it's an issue. You know, obviously, that's what Janet Yellen my boss is working on. That's what his boss Gina Raimondo was working on. That's what the President the Vice President are working on. Everybody's working on it. I don't have an answer to it. All I could say to you is that at the highest highest highest levels of government, there is a huge awareness of supply chain issues with respect to infrastructure spending, and it goes beyond supplies as well. I'll state the obvious. There's not just broadband money in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, right. It's also roads, its bridges, it's trans and everything else. These all put a strain on it, both from a labor perspective and a supply and a materials perspective. So the the, the the White House, and the administration is very aware of that issue.
Was Ross, you may actually have more to say on this point, too. But states are already taking action on the supply chain challenges as well, both with the supply of equipment and with labor. Vermont, and Ohio are the two that come immediately to mind. But looking at apprenticeship programs, how can they really do this direct pipelining of talent, get them out into the field and into construction quickly. But what I think we are seeing are states are recognizing that the federal government is trying to take action and trying to do this really fun coordination across all these agencies. States are also trying to hustle on that as well as they can. But there are also a lot of questions about kind of where are those supply chain challenges actually happening? Where are they being felled? And who are they affecting? So once again, we're in this fun area of not operating with full information. But state governments are aggressively taking action on on both the labor and equipment issue.
Okay, I think Russ gets the final word, then we have to get too much.
Yes. So, three quick points. Points. I want to make No, three quick points I want to make the first point is just because we look a little bit of like, although Joe's got more hair, it was Joey for the price. It was Joey Winder who said yes, it's a problem. So to be clear, it was not rough answer said that. I've been I've been a trip. I've had other people's quotes attributed immediately before. So I want to make clear that okay, that was probably one.
I did not. It's an issue we're aware of. It's a concern. Better. Okay. Challenge that we'll meet.
Point to, as Joey said, every we are very much focused on supply chain issues. Some of you may know that even aside from IgA, the Commerce Department has been looking at the ICT supply chain, in the context of executive order issued in the last year or so. So that's been an issue both within NTIA and in the broader Commerce Department. A concern not in the sense of worry, but something that we've been focused on. Third, on this specific question, yeah, you're having you have a lot of broadband money coming through and going to be competing in some senses for the same fiber or the same components, the same labor resources, the way to deal with that bet and I just want to check in with Joe, he said, we are focused on that there are workstreams, in my office and elsewhere working on that very question, that kind of the empirical aspect of the supply chain question. But in the long term to play armchair economists, the way to try to deal with those supply chains is to send good some good demand signals as early as possible, right, because there is time with these product, some of these programs anyway, to build capacity and to reorient labor and to engage in training and so on. So send the demand signals early. So people know, there's, there's a, there's a use case for getting the education building the factory, etc. And then second, I'd say is to give people confidence that there's going to be a use for those skills and those facilities going onward. Right. So it's not just now but we need to give people confidence that this is just, you know, we're just getting started with the ICT workforce, the high tech workforce, and it works, it plays in itself, right, because having a great broadband infrastructure and a great critical infrastructure gives us the new applications and the new use cases that create the use case that that creates the incentives for the virtuous circle and more and more so the better we do this, the more jobs will be the more need there will be for those plants and factories and etc. And we need to make sure people know that because that's what gives investors the confidence to start creating the facilities and workforce today.
So just want to let everybody know that. Let me type I want everyone to please join me in thanking this panel for all their thoughts today.