Broadband advocates upset in Waldo County’s early plan for stimulus cash

Waldo County officials plan to invest approximately $ 3 million in federal stimulus funds to upgrade emergency services infrastructure.

The county received the first half of the $ 7.7 million grant from the American Rescue Plan Act. Commissioners have stated that they are cautiously moving forward with their plans as they await further clarification from the federal government on how the money will be used and project estimates change due to construction costs.

“It’s like a Christmas wish list: you circle everything in the catalog and then, when it gets closer, you say, ‘Yeah, that’s not going to happen,'” said Amy Fowler, chairman of the Waldo County Board of Commissioners. “It’s a work in progress.”

Waldo is one of the first counties in Maine that Outline a plan for stimulus money. The counties here will receive $ 260 million in the stimulus package, plus another $ 233 million for cities and towns. It’s a massive godsend that is expected to lead to large-scale projects that could span any jurisdiction, with many debating broadband, but the money for it has been cut in the county’s plan.

The commissioners presented the spending plans they were considering in a letter to community officials in Waldo County in late July. At the top of the wish list is $ 1.6 million to move the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency from the sheriff’s office to its own building on the county garden lot. The project would also include a new warehouse to house supplies and create a space for food grown in County Garden to be processed and stored.

The county also plans to spend an additional $ 1.25 million in aid to “fully rebuild” the Waldo County’s regional communications center as much of the center’s equipment is no longer supported by the manufacturer.

“The positive part of this project is that it provides excellent law enforcement and emergency services coverage for the entire county,” the district officials said in the July 27 letter.

After receiving requests from several cities and the Southwestern Waldo County Broadband Coalition, the commission decided to allocate US $ 20,000 in broadband infrastructure investments to each of the county’s 26 cities. But then the requirement to spend the funds solely on broadband was lifted after some officials wanted to use the money for other purposes.

The decision to allocate only the $ 20,000 per community was a disappointment to broadband advocates in the county, who hoped that county officials would use the aid to make bigger investments in broadband nationwide.

“When you made your decision, you really underfunded the broadband coalition efforts and only our broadband efforts in general in Waldo County,” said Andre Blanchard, a Liberty voter and member of the Southwestern Waldo County Broadband Coalition.

With not all of the 26 cities having plans to spend the $ 20,000 broadband investment, Blanchard and other broadband proponents say it will take a lot more money to make progress in developing high-speed Internet infrastructure.

“I am grateful that the district officers recognize the importance of broadband, but I think it will take a lot more of our cities and our district to make sure everyone is covered for years to come,” said Breanna Pinkham-Bebb., Northport community commissioner said.

Fowler said the commissioners felt it was fairer to allocate an equal amount to each city than to give a large investment to a smaller number of cities. She hopes the majority of cities will use the $ 20,000 – which will air on August 31st – for broadband partnerships.

The county will continue to hold meetings and workshops to discuss how the funds will be used, Fowler said. She also hopes the county will have a clearer idea of ​​whether these projects can be carried out with the aid funds after submitting a report to the federal government late this month.

Changes in project estimates could also cause the county to change its spending plan.

“Not everything is very specific,” said Fowler.

Metropolis prioritizes utilities, broadband with federal aid cash – The Suffolk Information-Herald

Rainwater, water and wastewater infrastructure improvements and broadband projects have been identified as the city’s priorities with the roughly $ 30 million it will receive from the US rescue plan.

The city will receive the money in two payments – $ 15 million it received about two weeks ago, and another payment of roughly the same amount in late June 2022. It has until December 31, 2024 to fully pay the money to bind a specific purpose. and must be completely used up by December 31, 2026.

It has identified $ 20.5 million projects to improve sewers, water supplies and drainage in Oakland, along with water and rainwater improvements in the Williamstown area and rainwater improvements in Pughsville, Pleasant Hill and South Suffolk.

The city is also proposing spending $ 8 million to improve the city’s broadband infrastructure – $ 5 million from a regional effort by the Southside Network Authority to build Phase I of the regional connectivity ring and $ 3 million for broadband expansion on the last mile in rural areas of the city.

“The $ 3 million component that we understand is eligible,” said Deputy Interim City Manager Kevin Hughes, “we would take the existing infrastructure and expand it to neighborhoods and parts of the city that are not currently (served ) become.”

The city is also proposing to spend $ 1.5 million to support nonprofits that have and continue to support residents negatively affected by COVID-19.

City Treasury Director Tealen Hansen and Hughes set out the parameters of how the city could spend its share of federal funds during a city council working session on July 7.

Hansen said the city could spend the money on five categories – in support of the public health response to COVID-19; Address the negative economic impact on workers, families, small businesses, affected industries, and public sector re-employment to address the loss of public sector revenue during the coronavirus pandemic; Bonus wages for key employees; and sewer, water and broadband infrastructure.

ARPA money may not be used as a non-state matching fund unless specifically authorized, general economic development and infrastructure projects, extraordinary contributions to pension funds, payments for debt service, legal settlements, deposits in Rainy Day funds and general economic development or human resource development activities, unless they deal directly with negative effects of the pandemic.

In Oakland, Hughes said the city will try to expand the sewer system and move residents away from private sewage treatment plants without impacting sewage charges. The water infrastructure project there is part of plans to complete an earlier Capital Improvement Program and Plan project by replacing an older 2-inch water pipe with a 6- and 8-inch water pipe to also improve the water supply for residents and firefighters without affecting the rate.

The rainwater improvements in Oakland would include an improved drainage system to reduce flooding.

City manager Al Moor said potential savings could be made if the work on the Oakland projects were combined by tearing open roads just once to get the job done.

In Williamstown, the city would replace an older 2-inch aqueduct with an 8-inch aqueduct to upgrade water and fire service and improve the drainage system there.

Hughes said in Pughsville that since it is served by an older trench drainage system, the city wants to accelerate an improved drainage system there and accelerate the work proposed with CIP money in fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

Like Pughsviille, the Lloyd Place and Rosemont neighborhoods along with those in Pleasant Hill and South Suffolk have an older ditch drainage system 10 years old. She wants to use the federal funds to accelerate the improvement.

“If we take an existing project that we have on the books and that takes up space in the CIP in our current funding that we are now replacing with federal funding, the next one is CIP,” said Hughes, “We are starting to develop new locations and improve service in other parts of the city. And so it really has the ability to add and create new projects.

“While getting that $ 30 million in the middle of the year is really exciting, it will allow us to have bigger legs, another $ 30 million or $ 20 million in other parts of the city. I think there is a great opportunity if we also look at the next CIP to introduce new locations for improvement. “

The $ 23.8 million fiber ring phase I cost of the regional broadband project would be shared equally among the agency’s five members – Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The ring of the network will eventually be connected with transatlantic submarine cables and the network ring will serve as the backbone of the South Hampton Roads digital ecosystem.

Hughes said the agency’s lawyer determined that the project’s “middle mile” distribution was eligible for federal money and, if approved, would be completed by December 2023.

The council decided to schedule public hearings for July 21st to amend the current operating and capital budget to accept and use federal funds. Moor said city officials would continue to orientate themselves on project costs, the schedules for the proposed projects, and other details about them.

“What we have looked at here is a start,” said Moor, “these are some projects that we have had for some time.”

Council members generally supported the city’s spending plan for the ARPA money, but said they wanted more details and a copy of the proposed ordinance.

Alderman Lue Ward said he wanted to know how much money is needed to complete projects and how long those projects will last.

Councilor Roger Fawcett said $ 3 million for broadband “doesn’t even scratch the surface,” while Tim Johnson said there needs to be more discussion about broadband, as well as 5G with Verizon and other providers, and what the city itself is doing can to do this in your own system.

“We have to make sure we hit the whole city with this thing,” said Johnson, “and everyone in this city benefits ($ 30 million).”

Mayor Mike Duman said, “I think it is a very fair and prudent use of the funds that will have an immediate impact on some of our underserved communities.”

Ohio Senate management desires no extra cash for broadband growth

Legislators from both parties had hoped Ohio would take a big step forward this year to invest in broadband Internet rollout across the state.

Ohio Senate leaders think differently. While their Ohio House counterparts are looking to allocate millions of dollars to Internet expansion projects, state Senators from the state want to cut those funds to pay for several proposed tax cuts.

Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, and CFO Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, unveiled their chamber’s proposed state budget for the next two fiscal years on Tuesday. Highlights of this proposed budget include changes to Ohio’s school funding model and more than $ 1 billion in new tax cuts.

That includes a 5% income tax cut for Ohio workers, as well as other tax cuts related to business development that Huffman said are intended to boost employment growth. The Ohio House of Representatives budget, which was passed in April, proposed a 2% cut in income tax.

To pay for these tax cuts, the Senate presidents want to cut funding for the Department of Job and Family Services and the Department of Medicaid. Dolan referred to these as administrative cuts that will have no impact on public services.

Another way to pay for the tax cuts is by eliminating the funding of internet expansion projects.

Internet access has been a priority for both Democratic and Republican officials in recent years. Governor Mike DeWine proposed grant funding of $ 250 million in his own budget proposal in early 2021.

The House of Representatives’ draft budget earmarked $ 190 million for this.

Outside of the budget negotiations, both chambers recently gave their approval House bill 2 to create the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program. DeWine signed the law in May; It provides initial funding of $ 20 million.

It was hoped that the state budget would be able to pump more money into this funding program. The Senate is not proposing any additional money for broadband expansion and is completely canceling the US $ 190 million of the House of Representatives.

Huffman acknowledged that there are rural and urban areas of the state without reliable internet access, but continued to express hesitation about increasing spending to address the problem. Experts estimate that an estimated 1 million Ohioans do not have access to high-speed internet at home.

“I think people are eager to spend money on something that everyone thinks is a good idea,” Huffman told reporters on Tuesday. “I think it’s a bad idea to just spend money without a plan.”

The Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program, initiated by HB 2, sets out a detailed way of using government funds for infrastructure projects.

Certain areas of the state – such as the hilly areas of Appalachian Ohio – do not have internet access because the difficult terrain prevents private companies from pursuing projects there.

The aim of the funding program is to close this “cost gap”. State funding is intended to encourage companies to invest in expansion projects in otherwise difficult-to-access areas.

State Reps. Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Twp., And Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, were the two main sponsors of HB 2 and spent the first few months of 2021 highlighting the benefits of internet access for business, health and educational purposes.

“High-speed Internet is the great social balance of our time”, Carfagna has often said.

In a statement provided, the two lawmakers expressed the hope that their Republicans in the other chamber would reconsider.

“Ohio now has a bipartisan strategy in state law to address this issue,” noted Carfagna and Stewart, referring to HB 2. “It is imperative that we fund it sensibly to get real results.”

They continued, “The lack of broadband access is currently denying at least one million Ohio residents employment, education, health care and commerce, and the broadband expansion grants proposed by the House of Representatives and the Governor’s Office are designed to unleash hundreds of millions of private investments to aggressively combat these inequalities … (we) look forward to hearing how you pursue House Bill 2’s vision to facilitate the expansion of high-speed Internet to unserved households across Ohio. “

Huffman said that providing Internet access for all Ohioans doesn’t necessarily mean they have the opportunity to use it.

He suggested that this extension would not be helpful for residents who are not tech savvy.

“(S) the provision of broadband services does not mean that people who may have access to them will or will be able to access them,” said Huffman. “You still need to have some kind of equipment – a computer, an iPad, whatever it is – you need to know how to use it. You need to know what happens when it doesn’t work. And for people like me, I don’t know what happens if that thing doesn’t work, I have to ask someone, and I suppose a lot of other Ohioans are like that. “

The US rescue plan, signed by President Joe Biden in March, provides states and other territories with $ 10 billion for broadband infrastructure. Huffman said those potential US dollars did not affect his decision to raise Ohio funding from the proposed Senate budget.

“I’m always a little suspicious that the federal government is doing what it promises,” said Huffman. “These dollars appear to be real. We’ll see. But we can’t pass a budget until June 30th in the hope that the federal government will do what it has announced. “

As soon as the Ohio Senate has passed its version of the budget, the legislators of the two houses meet in a so-called conference committee to negotiate the differences between the respective budget proposals. The legislature has until June 30th to finalize an agreed budget before it is submitted to the governor for signature.

This story was republished by the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

Arkansas American Rescue Plan price range may imply cash for COVID-19 vaccines, broadband

The Arkansas American Rescue Plan’s Steering Committee met for the first time Wednesday to discuss how to distribute $ 1.57 billion to various programs. Asa Hutchinson said the money will be used for everything from COVID-19 vaccines to broadband internet. “It’s unique in history. It’s a unique opportunity to improve the infrastructure in our state from broadband to healthcare to cybersecurity, from IT to water projects,” Hutchinson said. In total, the federal government gave Arkansas $ 5 billion with the American Rescue Plan. About $ 1.57 billion of this has been allocated to the state government, with the remainder going to local governments and other projects. Chairman Larry Walther said the focus is the money flowing into the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID response, reducing the spread of the virus, controlling the pandemic, vaccinations, contact tracing, things like that are number one,” Walther said. Rogers Fire Chief Tom Jenkins is part of the NWA COVID-19 Task Force. He said this money could help educate more Arcansans about the vaccine, which could help with vaccination rates. “We need all the help we can get. It wasn’t until the vaccines came out that we got around the corner. I think the money was put into vaccines. Not only vaccines, but educating the public about the safety of vaccines is from critical to continuing to resolve the problem that has persisted for over a year, “said Jenkins. Hutchinson said another important thing in Arkansas is rural broadband internet. “I’d rather see our broadband investment in a few months than a year. Let’s get it out quickly. It’s an urgent need,” he said by December 31, 2026, $ 1.57 billion must be spent . The committee will meet again in early June and provide a more detailed breakdown of how much money was spent.

The Arkansas American Rescue Plan’s Steering Committee met for the first time Wednesday to discuss how to distribute $ 1.57 billion to various programs.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said the money will be used for everything from COVID-19 vaccines to broadband internet.

“It’s unique in history. It’s a unique opportunity to improve the infrastructure in our state from broadband to healthcare to cybersecurity, from IT to water projects,” said Hutchinson.

In total, the federal government gave Arkansas $ 5 billion with the American Rescue Plan.

About $ 1.57 billion of this has been allocated to the state government, with the remainder going to local governments and other projects.

Chairman Larry Walther said the focus of the money is on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID response, reducing the spread of the virus, controlling the pandemic, vaccinations, contact tracing, things like that are number one,” Walther said.

Rogers Fire Chief Tom Jenkins is part of the NWA COVID-19 Task Force. He said this money could help educate more Arcansans about the vaccine, which could help with vaccination rates.

“We need all the help we can get. It wasn’t until the vaccines came out that we got around the corner. I think money that goes into vaccines is not just for vaccines, but for educating the public about them.” Vaccine safety is essential to continue to solve a really long problem, “Jenkins said.

Governor Hutchinson said another important thing in Arkansas is rural broadband internet.

“I’d rather see our broadband investment in a few months than a year. Let’s get it out quickly. It’s an urgent need,” he said.

The committee said the $ 1.57 billion must be spent by December 31, 2026.

The committee will meet again in early June and explain in more detail where it intends to spend the money.

Op-Ed: Biden shouldn’t throw extra taxpayer cash at broadband | Nationwide

President Joe Biden’s American employment plan, which includes a laundry list of infrastructure proposals valued at $ 2 trillion, seeks to allocate more tax dollars ($ 100 billion) to broadband despite a flawed government track record on high-speed Internet.

A White House statement on the plan said the goal is to bring “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband” to “every American, including more than a third of rural Americans who currently lack broadband access.” The plan calls for $ 100 billion in tax dollars to be used towards this goal.

Taxpayer dollars are already being spent on broadband and it’s not going very well. A US Government Accountability Office report found that federal spending on digital divide programs totaled $ 47.3 billion between 2009 and 2017. This assignment pales in comparison to the $ 172 billion Private sector spending from 2011 to 2020.

The Associated Press noted that despite this government spending, the gap persists. Over the next decade, an additional $ 20 billion has been allocated for rural broadband, an additional $ 9 billion for 5G in rural areas, and billions more for the COVID-19 pandemic. None of these conspicuous sums include the $ 100 billion proposed by the Biden government. And thanks to efforts by the private sector, a staggering 1.3 million (340,000 rural) additional households have broadband availability as of 2019.

Daniel Lyons, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the government’s plan to make sure every American has high-speed internet is a priority, but “the devil is in the details.”

The plan states that the administration intends to “future-proof” the broadband infrastructure that will be built with the allocated funds, but as Lyons notes, “predicting the future of the telecommunications network is a breeze.” Although small cellular operators have done the work of Yeoman in recent years to connect some of the hardest-to-reach rural areas, Biden’s plan would focus on fiber optic networks.

“The picking of winners and losers among the network models undermines the intermodal competition that drives all technology and increases the chances of finding the most efficient way to serve individual pockets of unserved customers,” Lyons wrote.

He also notes that the plan mentions underserved and underserved areas in the same breath, although these are two very different terms. Prioritizing unserved areas would steer infrastructure where it is needed most, while allocating funds for underserved areas can sometimes lead to overbuilding. This is especially true as there is no precise definition of what it means that an area is underserved.

Michael Powell, President and CEO of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, released a statement on the plan that the government is “taking the risk of seriously wrong turn” to promote state networks and close the digital divide. The impetus for this rhetoric comes from the government’s insistence on treating broadband like a utility company.

“This shift is being fueled by the mistaken amalgamation of our successful modern digital networks with our decaying roads, bridges, waterways and power grids,” said Powell. “While we’ve seen repeated examples of traditional infrastructure outages over the past few years, America’s broadband has been a dependable workhorse as millions of Americans have worked, learned, and connected from home during the pandemic.”

Similar to the infrastructure failures mentioned by Powell, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been reporting on the failures of state-owned networks for years. Examples are not missing and many are highlighted on TPAs Broadband boondoggles Website and GON With the wind Report published last year.

The private sector is more than capable of closing the digital divide if it is freed from the shackles of onerous regulation. Rather than throwing more tax dollars on broadband at a time when national debt is piling up at a record rate, the Biden government would be better able to cut red tape and get the private sector to work.

The private sector has and will close the digital divide more efficiently – all without taxpayers’ money.

Johnny Kampis is a Senior Fellow and investigative reporter for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Federal cash to SpaceX might harm public broadband efforts in WA

New leadership, possible corrections

mid-January More than 150 members of Congress wrote to the FCCand calls on the agency to carefully examine the companies that are to receive federal broadband grants.

In a letter to then-chairman Ajit Pai, the bipartisan group of lawmakers said the FCC must ensure that companies can deliver what they promise without naming companies.

“Without due care, we fear today that we will not know whether the funds have not been properly spent in the years to come,” said the letter, signed by US Representative Jim Clyburn, South Carolina, Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota and Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Michigan.

A day after this letter was sent, a new administration took office in Washington DC, which also brought new leadership to the FCC.

The agency’s new acting chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, had previously expressed concerns about continuing the auction last fall to distribute rural broadband subsidies. Last February, when Rosenworcel was serving as FCC commissioner, the agency argued that it should wait until it can upgrade its cards in order to get better data on where broadband improvements are most needed.

Otherwise, warned Rosenworcel, the broadband subsidy program would become “more of a publicity stunt than politics.” She noted that poor broadband maps could force some areas to wait 10 years before they could get further help.

Once Rosenworcel became incumbent chair, she began implementing changes, Rosenworcel’s press secretary Paloma Perez said in a prepared statement.

One of them was the establishment of a new broadband data task force, which Perez said “is dedicated to the long overdue improvement of broadband data and mapping the agency.”

The agency also carefully reviews the fall auction winners and will not send money until this review is complete.

Even so, Elliott, the director of the Washington State Broadband Office, remains skeptical that if time is of the essence, things will get better in time. He claims that the FCC’s auction process rewards the cheapest broadband options, not the best. A pattern he fears will repeat itself.

“I’m trying to tie this into a future-proof, scalable infrastructure so we don’t have to have this conversation for another 30 years,” said Elliott. “Unfortunately, when they award the satellite companies, it has a huge impact on them.”

Broadband mapping cash must be in New York price range, Assemblyman says

ALBANIA – Former President Donald Trump may have saved Governor Andrew Cuomo from spending millions of dollars on his $ 193 billion state budget.

But not everyone is happy about it.

Cuomo’s state budget said Wednesday that the governor had not tabled a $ 3 million proposal for a comprehensive study and mapping of the availability of high-speed internet in New York, as Trump agreed to add $ 65 million to update the To issue broadband cards from the federal government.

Cuomo earlier this year killed a bill passed by state lawmakers last summer to create a detailed map of the availability of high-speed or broadband Internet services across the state. The bill was known as the Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act.

Cuomo does not include broadband mapping funding as promised

Cuomo is one of the country’s biggest advocates for expanding high-speed internet to rural areas. Its $ 500 million broadband program in New York City, launched in 2015, is designed to help cable TV, telephone, and satellite companies get subsidies to build hard-to-reach internet infrastructure. Cuomo’s current budget proposal would force ISPs in New York to give low-income households a $ 15 a month plan.

The governor and his staff say repeatedly that the broadband gap has been effectively closed and less than two percent of the state lacks high-speed internet today, compared to 30 percent when the program began.

“The governor has invested $ 500 million in expanding broadband availability and is pushing legislation this year to dramatically improve affordability,” Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the Cuomo Household Bureau, told the Times Union. “Meanwhile, the new Federal Communications Commission chairman has stated that accurate mapping is a top priority, and Congress has already given the FCC $ 65 million to support them, eliminating the need for any government effort in the short term become.”

Trump signed the bill approving funding for FCC broadband mapping before stepping down.

However, consumer groups and political leaders who backed the legislature’s bill say proposals that 98 percent of New Yorkers will have access to high-speed internet are in doubt and that a detailed study is needed to ensure the state gets its broadband funding despite the FCC Spends wisely plans to update its broadband maps, which are generally considered inaccurate and oversimplified.

“It’s out of date and not working,” Congregation member Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, told the Times Union on Wednesday, emphasizing his disappointment that Cuomo’s office had promised to include $ 3 million broadband mapping funding in its office Include budget proposal, but did not do so. “That has to be in the budget.”

Santabarbara is dismayed that students in his district are unable to attend distance learning during the pandemic due to insufficient internet connections. Businesses have had to close due to pandemic regulations enacted by Cuomo because they cannot sell online. He suggests that Cuomo’s policy advisors do not want accurate mapping as it may show broadband accessibility is well below 98 percent.

“It’s offensive,” said Santabarbara. “These rural communities have suffered long enough.”

Eric Gertler, who effectively leads Cuomo’s broadband efforts as CEO of Empire State Development, the governor’s bureau of economic development, said at a budget hearing last month that the 98 percent coverage rate was correct.

“We checked everything from third-party providers,” said Gertler.

Senate invoice seeks to permit Virginia faculty boards to make use of state cash for broadband growth | Information

(The Center Square) – Legislation that would allow school authorities to raise funds to fund broadband Internet rollouts in non-serviced areas got past a second Senate committee in Virginia.

Senate Act 1225, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon, advanced 12-0 through the Education and Health Committee Thursday, with unanimous support from both parties. It previously passed the Committee on Trade and Labor 15-0.

There would be no tax impact on the Commonwealth as the bill does not allocate additional funding to school authorities, but rather gives them additional flexibility with the government funds already received.

With some school districts in the state using distance learning only and other counties using a mix of distance learning and face-to-face learning, the bill would allow school authorities to allocate these funds to expanding broadband for educational purposes only. It empowers the Boards to work with private broadband service providers to promote, implement and subsidize this broadband expansion in their area of ​​responsibility.

To qualify for broadband expansion, students in the home would need to qualify for a nutrition program or other school board-approved program to determine which students are at risk.

The committee also passed laws requiring the Virginia Department of Education and the Board of Education to develop new policies and procedures to improve special education in the Commonwealth.