Last February, the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012” was signed to create a single nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network to enable police, fire fighters, emergency medical service professionals, and other public safety officials communicate across agencies and jurisdictions.
The Act requires NTIA to establish a grant program. NTIA on August 21st published a notice in the Federal Register to announce requirements for the “State and Local Implementation Grant Program” with up to $135 million in funding.
The grants would assist state, regional, tribal, and local jurisdictions to find the most efficient and effective means to use and integrate the infrastructure, equipment plus the other architecture associated with establishing the Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN).
The Act also establishes the First Responder Network Authority referred to as First Net as an independent authority within NTIA to design, construct, and operate the PSBN based on national network architecture. Recently, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank appointed 12 individuals to the Board of Directors to First Net.
In other actions, NTIA has updated the National Broadband Map an interactive map showing the high speed internet service that is available in the U.S. The map includes data from 1,865 broadband providers nationwide with more than 20 million records.
Since its launch last year the National Broadband Map has attracted more than 650,000 users. By using the map, a Utah mid-sized company in the healthcare field that was losing time and money due to frequent broadband outages at a rural office needed to find another broadband provider. The company was able to use the Map to identify other broadband providers in their rural county and avoid many outages.
In another move, FCC has just published their “Eighth Broadband Progress Report” available at www.fcc.gov/reports/eighth-broadband-progress-report. According to the report, there has been major progress made to accelerate deployment of broadband in the U.S.
However, even with the progress made, the report finds that approximately 19 million Americans still lack access to “fixed broadband service” at threshold speeds. Fixed wireless broadband is a type of high speed internet access where connections to service providers use radio signal rather than cable.
In rural areas, nearly one-fourth of the population of 14.5 million people lack access to broadband and in tribal areas, nearly one-third of the population still lack access. Even in areas where broadband is available, 100 million Americans still do not subscribe. The report concludes that until the Commission’s “Connect America” reforms are fully implemented, these gaps are unlikely to close.
The report includes online interactive maps which show exactly where broadband is available by technology type for every county in the nation. The map showing the availability of fixed broadband can be viewed at www.fcc.gov/maps/section-706-fixed-broadband-deployment-map.
However, there is some disagreement on the FCC’s viewpoint as stated in their recent report on U.S. Broadband progress. According to a press release sent out by Richard Bennett, Senior Research Fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), he strongly feels that America’s broadband infrastructure is moving in the right direction and is accomplishing this feat at a reasonable and even commendable rate.
He further notes that the average broadband connection speed in the U.S. has risen from 22nd to 15th in the last two years. He further states “We are never going to bring wired broadband connections to the far reaches of rural America without massive subsidies, so the goal should be to deploy appropriate technologies at a reasonable subsidy level.
For more information, email Alexis Fearon at email@example.com.