Call to Action: Get Involved in Your Local BroadbandUSA Efforts
By David Witkowski
Over the last few years IEEE Future Networks has developed content, events, and educational offerings that sought to highlight the need for technical experts to engage with their local communities to address the slow pace of deployment of 5G and infrastructure and services. For those residing in the U.S., now is a critical time for engagement.
A series of public meetings will take place across the country that will affect how more than $40 billion will be granted for expansion of affordable broadband access in America. IEEE Future Networks thinks that IEEE members are uniquely qualified to participate in these discussions and make recommendations on smart use of this wealth of government funding, or to sniff out bad or disreputable attempts at receiving this funding.
Using the background and information and links provided below, we encourage IEEE members in the US, D.C., and territories to volunteer to get involved. Unfortunately, there is no master calendar of all of the public meetings that will take place, so we encourage you to be proactive and contact your local broadband coordinators for more information.
In late 2021 the U.S. Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which included $65 billion for broadband support and expansion. The IIJA funds broadband affordability, and deployments for tribal land, middle-mile networks, and last-mile networks. The latter effort is the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program which will provide $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) administers all IIJA broadband programs under the moniker “BroadbandUSA”. In turn, NTIA is working with the broadband offices for states and territories to develop strategic action plans. Broadband offices must conduct stakeholder outreach events, called Local Coordination events, typically at the county level.
Given the size and scope of the BEAD Program, there is a great need for technical expertise at Local Coordination events, because most local governments do not have staff with broadband expertise. IEEE members residing in the U.S., D.C., and territories can help by contacting their state/territorial broadband offices and volunteering to help with Local Coordination events.
- NTIA BroadbandUSA program
- NTIA State/Territory Broadband Office Directory – use the map to find your local contacts
- IEEE Connecting the Unconnected program
David Witkowski is Co-Chair of the INGR Deployment Working Group in IEEE Future Networks, a member of the Board of Expert Advisors for the California Emerging Technology Fund, and of the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s Connected Communities Forum. His business, Oku Solutions, provides professional services consulting to the broadband telecommunications industry and local governments.