Summit Reveals Complications with Broadband Deployment Funds in Virginia

Virginia’s Director of the Office of Broadband, Tamarah Holmes, spoke this week at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual legislative summit about the benefits and challenges of the federal government’s Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program.

The BEAD Program apportions $42.5 billion to the states to develop programs to deliver high-speed internet access to areas without an internet connection or where the internet functions more slowly.

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Shapiro Touts Broadband Expansion as Industry Worries Over Regulatory Hurdles

Gov. Josh Shapiro touted federal money for broadband expansion in western Pennsylvania on Friday, arguing for bipartisanship and efficient governance.

“I wanted to be here today because Beaver County’s got its act together,” Shapiro said. “Folks want people in government — regardless of what party they’re in — to find ways to work together, to come together and actually solve problems, and to get stuff done.”

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Commentary: Brown County’s $30 Million Taxpayer Loan for Broadband Expansion Deserves Closer Scrutiny

Brown County residents may be aware of a proposed broadband expansion project in their area. What they may not be aware of is the potential cost of this project – “$27.2 million loan at 4 percent interest to be repaid over 30 years,” as reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette. This should raise some eyebrows. Not only does Brown County receive service from multiple broadband providers, but there are additional projects on the horizon and federal broadband funding that is expected to flow into the state.

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Commentary: Tennessee Government Broadband Is Socialization of Effective Industry

In recent years, communities across Tennessee have considered pursuing a municipally-run broadband network. In July of 2021, this trend continued with the Knoxville Utilities Board’s (KUB) proposal for the largest municipal fiber network in the nation being approved unanimously by the Knoxville City Council. KUB’s broadband business plan came with a colossal $702 million price tag, as well as an estimated seven to ten year network build out, with the hopes of providing service to a four-county footprint, the majority of which would be located in Knox County, where the FCC estimates that 98.3% of the area has access to three or more broadband providers already.

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Commentary: Cleveland GON Is Another Risky Broadband Project

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that high-speed internet is as integral to the modern world today as electricity was 100 years ago. Still, around six percent of the country, heavily concentrated in very rural areas, lack access to the infrastructure that would bring them online. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have recognized these individuals are in danger of getting left behind and made serious efforts to make sure the remaining communities get connected quickly. Republican lawmakers have also fought hard to include language in internet infrastructure initiatives that prevents some of the typical government-waste we see with big-spending projects.

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Gov. Northam: Virginia Should Reach Universal Broadband by 2024

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

Virginia is on pace to have universal broadband access throughout the commonwealth by 2024 following a record number of local and private sector applications to match state investments, Gov. Ralph Northam announced.

After the most recent application window closed, the state received 57 applications from 84 localities for about $943 million worth of state funding, which leverages about $1.15 billion worth of private and local matching funds. In total, this amounts to an investment larger than $2 billion, which the governor’s office estimates will connect more than 250,000 homes to broadband internet.

“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” Northam said in a statement. “Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic pushed us all to move even faster. Virginia is now on track to achieve universal broadband by 2024, which means more connections, more investments, easier online learning, and expanded telehealth options, especially in rural Virginia.”

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Senate Passes Infrastructure Bill; Tennessee’s Hagerty Warns of a Move Toward ‘Western-Europe-Style Socialism’

By a vote of 69 to 30, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a $1.2 billion infrastructure bill that Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) warns is an endeavor to “fundamentally move America toward Western-Europe-style socialism.”

“Investing in infrastructure the right way is a wise investment in America’s future and in our long-term competitiveness, but that’s not what we’re being asked to vote on here,” Hagerty told fellow senators in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote.

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Tennessee Officials to Allocate COVID-Relief Funds to Increase Internet Access in Underserved Regions

Crystal Ivey, broadband director at Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD), said Wednesday that $500 million in taxpayer money bestowed upon Tennessee in the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief will go toward broadband expansion.

ECD officials and Governor Bill Lee (R) have stressed the heightened importance of telecommuting, e-commerce, telemedicine and distance learning after the pandemic hit.

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Expanding Broadband Access in Ohio Becomes Law

Gov. Mike DeWine

Advancing broadband access across Ohio became official when Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law a bill that creates a grant program that government and business groups said is critical to economic development.

DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted signed the bill Monday at Middletown’s Amanda Elementary School, along with students, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria and Ohio Development Services Agency Director Lydia Mihalik.

“Reliable high-speed internet is a necessity for all Ohio industries, including manufacturing,” said Ryan Augsburger, president of the Ohio Manufacturers Association. “The pandemic has illuminated the need for Ohio families and businesses to efficiently access broadband in today’s technology-based economy.”

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Emergency Broadband Benefit Applications Open, Provides $50 per Month to Help Recipients Pay Broadband Bills

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is accepting applications for an economic relief program providing $50 per month to help low-income families pay for broadband.

“The Emergency Broadband Benefit program will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands,” states an announcement shared Wednesday by Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Virginia-01). “Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.”

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More Rural Georgia Counties to Get Internet Upgrade under Private-Sector Deal

Workers installing broadband internet

More rural Georgians are expected to gain access to high-speed internet under a private-sector partnership announced this week by Conexon Connect.

Conexon Connect is collaborating with Middle Georgia EMC to provide broadband access to nearly 5,000 homes and businesses in Dooly, Houston, Macon, Pulaski, Turner, Wilcox and Ben Hill counties.

“Our members have waited long enough for high-speed access to make telemedicine, remote learning, working from home and videoconferencing with loved ones a reality on a daily basis,” Middle Georgia EMC President and CEO Randy Crenshaw said. “Connect is making it possible for our cooperative to deliver this vital service at last. We are ready to show them all the opportunities that open up in a more connected community.”

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Commentary: Tennessee Democrat Wrongly Pushes TVA as Broadband Solution

Phil Bredesen

The Democrat seeking to replace the retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R) is pushing the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as a solution to solve the rural broadband gap. But, history shows that kind of big-government method will only take a bite out of taxpayers. Bredesen, the former governor of the Volunteer State, said recently he wants to amend the federal TVA Act to permit that government-owned power providers offer broadband access to rural areas of Tennessee. He said, “TVA is perfect to fix this digital divide,” noting the TVA board’s 2017 plan to spend $300 million to expand its network fiber capacity, which should improve the reliability of its transmission system. “I want our country to get back to the days when it did bold projects and not just fool around the edges with grants, tax credits, and demonstration projects,” Bredesen said. TVA seems more pragmatic and less eager about the idea than Bredesen. TVA spokesman Jim Hopson told the Times Free Press the focus of the expansion is to ensure reliable delivery to power in seven states, and that TVA “is not intending to become a broadband supplier.” While the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam…

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Big Government Bredesen Wants TVA in the Internet Business

Phil Bredesen

Liberal Democrat Chuck Schumer’s handpicked U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen has said he wants to get the Tennessee Valley Authority “to help expand broadband internet access to rural areas if elected.” Bredesen made the remarks Tuesday in Clarksville, TN. There’s video of him speaking here. He said he is committed to having Congress amend the federal TVA Act to allow the government-owned electricity provider to bring broadband access to underserved rural areas in Tennessee. Bredesen says the “foundation” has been set by the TVA’s board approval in 2017 of $300 million to expand its network fiber capacity to improve the reliability of its transmission system— and by a law signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam last year giving electric cooperatives the authority to provide broadband service. His conservative Republican opponent, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, hit back immediately. The leading GOP candidate to replace Corker is U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. In a statement Tuesday, Blackburn said “broadband as a utility is a big government solution that will raise taxes.” The focus should be on implementing the broadband access act signed by Haslam, Blackburn said. “TVA should stay focused on its core mission, which has served Tennesseans well for decades,” she said. This also…

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Clarksville Municipal Broadband Provider CDE Lightband, With Taxpayer Losses Topping $75 Million, Suffers More Outages

Tennessee Star

By Chris Butler CDE Lightband of Clarksville, the municipal broadband outlet that cost taxpayers $75 million, has had an outage, yet again, as of Wednesday. The municipal broadband service has had several outages over the past three years, inspiring a public uproar and raising questions about the grandiose claims made by city officials when they approved the network more than a decade ago. CDE officials said on their Facebook page Wednesday that an outage had occurred and that “engineers are working to resolve as quickly as possible.” Angry CDE customers, however, responded to that post with the following comments: CDE Lightband was supposed to provide local businesses with faster and more reliable web connections than private-sector providers AT&T and Charter, which serve the city of 142,000 that straddles the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. Voters gave CDE Lightband the go-ahead in a referendum 11 years ago. One major outage occurred on April Fool’s Day one year. CDE Lightband has 15,000 customers, with packages ranging from $44.95 to $249.95 per month, according to CDE’s website. – – – Reprinted with permission      

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Tennessee Watchdog: Eleven Tennessee Utilities Squander Taxpayer Money on Broadband

This article is reprinted with permission from the Tennessee Watchdog. By Chris Butler February 13, 2017 More than 200 municipal broadband networks in the U.S. have placed taxpayer money in jeopardy, and 11 of those networks are in Tennessee, a new report from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance says. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit unveiled a graphic this week pinpointing the locations of those networks. “Government-owned (i.e. taxpayer-funded) network projects have needlessly reduced resources available to help more pressing needs such as improving education, infrastructure and public safety,” according to a TPA press release. “These networks also unfairly compete against private businesses. Worst of all, these projects have proven to put taxpayer dollars at risk, leaving hardworking constituents to foot the bill, often at a steep cost.” Among the networks listed in Tennessee: • Memphis Networx, which, the TPA said, Memphis Light, Gas and Water created in 1999 and “was a financial drain on taxpayers.” “In 2007, with the Internet experiment on the verge of bankruptcy, Memphis Networx was sold off for $11.5 million,” the TPA said. That, the TPA added, was a loss of $20.5 million on the city’s $32 million total investment in the project. • E Plus Broadband, created…

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