Some cities are asking the Treasury to define poorly serviced areas as Internet download and upload speeds of less than 100 Mbps.
Concerns that cities and counties across the United States may not be able to use $ 350 billion in coronavirus relief supplies to expand high-speed Internet connections due to recent rules by President Joe Biden’s administration Has stated.
Biden has set the goal of providing a fast and affordable internet for all American homes.large-scale American Rescue Plan has taken a step towards that By including broadband infrastructure in the primary use of pandemic aid flowing to cities, counties and states.
However, Provisional rules issued by the US Treasury Narrowed broadband eligibility. It focuses on areas where reliable broadband is lacking to connect devices to the Internet via cables or data lines. Download speeds are over 25 megabits per second and upload speeds are over 3 Mbps.
This threshold guarantees funding for remote rural areas with slow or no internet services and is consistent with the definition of broadband set by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015. However, cities claim that the Eligibility Mark overlooks the reality of today’s Internet needs.
Broadband is already available in most cities, but may not be fast enough for multiple people at home to try to stream work, study, and entertainment at the same time, a common scenario during a coronavirus pandemic. There is sex. Prices can also be higher than low-income residents can afford.
“They basically prioritize these rural areas over populated, poorly serviced urban areas,” he helped government develop rules, now in the suburbs of Washington, DC, Virginia. Former Treasury lawyer Detta Kissel, who advocates better Internet services, said. Arlington, Virginia.
Several cities, including Washington, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and San Antonio, have submitted public comments to the Treasury to relax the eligibility criteria for spending pandemic bailouts on broadband. Some people want the Treasury to define underserved areas as less than 100Mbps download and upload speeds.
According to a survey conducted for the American Telecom Association, which represents small and medium-sized Internet providers, it will increase the number of places to fund approximately 11 to 82 million households and businesses nationwide.
Cities argue that the Treasury needs to use a 100/100 Mbps eligibility threshold. This is the same speed that a project would achieve if it received funding.another Infrastructure bill passing parliament Is more flexible and can send some of its $ 65 billion broadband funds to “underserved” areas where 100Mbps download speeds and 20Mbps upload speeds are lacking.
If the Treasury moves forward according to the original rules, low-population areas that are currently short of broadband can jump over certain urban areas at Internet speeds. That doesn’t work for some mayors.
“The city center of Memphis needs broadband connectivity as urgently as the countryside of Tennessee,” he said, seeking a Treasury guarantee before spending $ 20 million on broadband projects from the U.S. rescue program. Said Jim Strickland, Mayor of Memphis.
People who live almost anywhere in Milwaukee already have access to at least one internet provider that offers 25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload speeds. However, in some parts of the city, less than half of the households subscribe to Internet services because of the cost, said David Henke, chief information officer of the city.
“If you don’t have a job and can’t afford to buy broadband, it’s a cycle. You’re locked out of remote learning, remote work, and telemedicine, and you’re basically part of modern society.”
Milwaukee has applied for a $ 12.5 million grant from a share of the American Rescue Plan in Wisconsin and said it will chip in a $ 2.5 million pandemic bailout to extend affordable broadband to more parts of the city. rice field. But the city wants the Treasury to broaden the “narrow wording” of its rules.
The public comment period ended in July, but the Treasury has not set a date for when the final version of the rule will be released. Treasury officials said the ministry is undertaking a thorough review of comments that it believes will “continue until autumn.”
Senator Ron Wyden of the Democratic Party of Oregon, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has called on the Treasury to adopt broader eligibility criteria. He wrote that it is “terribly misunderstood” to assume that the community is properly serviced by the “terribly outdated” broadband benchmarks set by the department.
Groups in the broadband industry generally urge the Treasury to stick to the original plan to target money in areas with the slowest internet speeds.
Patrick Halley, USTelecom’s general counsel, including AT & T, said: Verizon and others.
The cable industry group NCTA has urged the treasury authorities to further tighten their eligibility. We want to limit the number of households that are already offering faster services that can be included in the areas targeted for improvement. We also want to eliminate the possibility of local subjective decisions in areas where reliable services are lacking.
According to industry groups, allowing improvements in areas that already meet the minimum speed threshold can suck money from the most distressed and hard-to-reach areas.
According to a study by the American Communications Association, it can cost $ 20 to $ 37 billion to provide ultra-fast Internet services to all locations currently lacking 25/3 Mbps. Covering all areas that currently lack 100 / 100Mbps speeds, the cost jumps from $ 106 billion to $ 179 billion.
“As a matter of priority, we think it’s best to start with the fewest areas,” said Ross Lieberman, senior vice president of government affairs for the association.
Most of the Treasury rules complaints come from big cities, but some rural residents have also expressed concern.
Retired computer hardware and software designer Charlie Hopkins owns a home in Maine that is only accessible by boat. The internet speed in his home was only 5 Mbps for downloads and 0.4 Mbps for uploads when recently tested on the Associated Press.
Hopkins is worried that Treasury rules may make it difficult for the island to get funding to improve the Internet, as some homes have faster speeds. He said broadband is essential for attracting and retaining residents.
“Other cities and towns in Maine, especially cities, are using the faster fiber-optic-based Internet,” Hopkins said. “I don’t like being in a position where we are essentially told,’Well, you’re at the end of the globe, so you’re not qualified.’ “
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