[National-fiber-coalition] My take on these provisions

Ernesto Falcon ernesto at eff.org
Wed Jul 28 17:03:11 PDT 2021

Here are the things that leap out to me

Unserved - 25/3 or down.
Underserved - Lacking 100/20.

In essence, government money will only be going to areas that are rural or DSL/WISP markets
Government money will not go to areas covered by a cable monopoly (ie cities) except for their low income pockets.

But for those city markets, it appears the lean is heavily into regulation with the "digital discrimination" section, which carries some very broad implications if federal law (regardless of the classification of broadband) will now consider an equal right to broadband services of subscribers. Still digesting that piece, but I'll be honest I'm surprised AT&T/cable were unsuccessful in stripping it out (unless they do before the night is out, anything is still possible there). From an administrative law standpoint, that's a big one since it won't require Title II reclassification.

On page 3 you have the following for projects building 100/20 mbps, which to me all reads fiber as the priority or at a minimum not building on the cheap floor/ceiling approaches to broadband. I'm still trying to understand who would reject such approaches (namely cable DOCSIS 3.0, Starlink, AT&T/Tmobile fixed wireless, older hardware WISPs), because having good law is only going to matter if you have a good enforcer.

(I) Priority broadband project.-The term "priority broadband project" means a project designed to-
(i) provide broadband service that meets speed, latency, reliability, consistency in quality of service, and related criteria as the Assistant Secretary shall determine; and
(ii) ensure that the network built by the project can easily scale speeds over time to-
(I) meet the evolving connectivity needs of households and businesses; and
(II) support the deployment of 5G, successor wireless technologies, and other advanced services.

On buildout timeline, the law requires 4 year plans unless circumstances require more time, and the waivers are pretty broad where I am less worried about supply chain delays for smaller fiber entities. An earlier cable bill basically said 4 years with no exception, and I'm glad to see that removed from consideration.

On latency, the bill proposes - (II) with a latency that is sufficiently low to allow reasonably foreseeable, real-time, interactive applications
As well as be required to offer a "low cost" offering with the applicant suggesting what is "low cost" in their application. It does not appear anywhere that the government has a role in defining low cost other than what applications it accepts in the bidding process. There is a decent amount of discretion by the NTIA to reject a "not good enough" low cost offering too it seems but "no rate regulation," which feels like a contortion act.

On USF - FCC must submit a report to Congress about reforming USF.
Digital Equity Act appears included along with a lot of funding for the creation of digital equity offices at the state level.

Middle mile grants - Essentially the funding of open access middle mile (albeit limited funds). Requirements are as follows belo

(A) connecting middle mile infrastructure to last mile networks that provide or plan to provide broadband service to households in unserved areas;
(B) connecting non-contiguous trust lands; or
(C) the offering of wholesale broadband service at reasonable rates on a carrier-neutral basis.
On EBB, the law converts the long term program from a $50 subsidy to a $30 subsidy with a lot of new rules to regulate how it operates. I think $30 will probably still over compensate some providers without a stronger understanding of providers costs.

My understanding is other provisions that are less contentious are outside this draft as well.

What else are people catching here?

Ernesto Omar Falcon
Senior Legislative Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Office: 415 436 9333 ext. 182
Cell: 202 716 0770

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