CTF HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE FIELD: November & December 2022
Connect the Future closed out 2022 with another strong push for federal and state action around utility pole access, including urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue an official order that streamlines access to poles and accelerates broadband deployment. By guaranteeing a more equitable division of costs between pole owners and attachers when poles must be replaced, standardizing pole attachment permitting timelines, and accelerating pole attachment dispute resolution, the Commission can help speed broadband deployment and ensure the billions in federal broadband funds quickly deliver high-speed internet availability to more than 14 million still unconnected Americans across the country.
As 2023 ushers in a new Congress and new state legislative sessions around the country, CTF and our supporters remain committed to breaking down barriers to broadband deployment, such as pole access issues, so that we can finally bridge our nation’s digital divide.
- Connect the Future’s (CTF) Zachary Cikanek hosted and moderated a webinar event, joined by former Iowa Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Western Carolina University’s Professor Edward J. Lopez, the International Center for Law and Economics’ (ICLE) Kristian Stout, and Multicultural Media Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) President and CEO, Robert Branson. The panel discussed the FCC’s current proceeding on utility poles and the opportunity to speed broadband deployment to unserved Americans by taking action right now to clarify pole access rules, including the allocation of pole replacement costs between pole owners and attachers. Read the full recap here.
- Former Iowa Lieutenant Governor, co-founder of Focus on Rural America, and CTF supporter Patty Judge published an opinion piece for DC Journal: “Broadband Reforms Are Key to Connecting Rural America.” She writes, “to ensure that critical federal broadband funds are maximized for broadband expansion to unserved communities, we must also address a stubborn and often overlooked obstacle during broadband deployment — utility pole access.” Read the full piece here.
- During a Senate Commerce hearing in December, NCTA CEO and former FCC Chairman Michael Powell highlighted access to utility poles as a key obstacle to broadband deployment that must be addressed to ensure connectivity for all, regardless of zip code. Watch the full hearing here.
- CTF applauded Senator John Thune (R-SD), ranking member on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband and longstanding rural broadband access champion, on launching a nationwide broadband oversight effort to ensure every federal broadband dollar goes toward bringing connectivity to truly unserved, often rural areas. Read more here.
- The application window for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Broadband Opportunity Program closed on December 9 with more than 100 applications submitted. The $400 million grant program was created to incentivize expansion of broadband access in unserved communities across the Sunshine State. CTF Florida has advocated for a dedicated utility pole replacement fund to supplement the grant program, so that expansion projects can be streamlined, particularly in rural areas.
- Later this month, CTF will honor former House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Rep. Josie Tomkow with CTF’s “Broadband Champion Award,” acknowledging their pivotal work in creating Florida’s new $400-million Broadband Opportunity Program.
- Governor Beshear announced in November that applications were being accepted for a second round of more than $206 million in broadband grants to support the expansion of high-speed, reliable internet throughout the Commonwealth. The application window will close in February. This past summer, Governor Beshear announced the first round of 47 broadband grants, which totaled nearly $90 million.
- In December, the Missouri Department of Economic Development released a statement on a new round of NTIA grants – $3 million – awarded to the state to enhance the ongoing efforts of the Office of Broadband Development to expand high-speed internet access statewide. This serves as a great opportunity to prioritize this funding to expand broadband access and increase adoption in the state.