T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk unveiled their grand plan to connect people – and it involves new (!) Starlink satellites that will be able to connect to T-Mobile phones already in customers’ hands – while any of the G2 satellites are not up yet. A distraction from getting skeptical comments (and decline of funding) from the FCC regarding achievability of SpaceX project’s goals?
T-Mobile and SpaceX are planning to use a dedicated slice of T-Mobile’s mid-band 1.9 GHz PCS spectrum, which surely will not be easily approved by the FCC. And what about placing base-station-type equipment on Starlink satellites to connect users in remote locations with cellular service? All this sounds ominous to me; time will tell. https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless.
This ambitious plan comes with high cost: RIP and Replace. "The Federal Communications Commission said in a letter dated Friday there is a roughly $3-billion shortfall for a reimbursement program intended to compensate providers who must remove equipment from Chinese providers deemed a threat to national security" "In a public notice on Monday, the agency said 181 applications seeking roughly $5.6 billion have been filed for the reimbursement program, which is paid for after removal work is done." Well, thank you again!
It's been a while since Maine players have been told about the windfall to be expected. A few steps further down the road, rules are finally available regarding handout and application of funds.
The U.S. Commerce Department on Friday, May 13, 2022, released the rules governing three separate federal broadband programs, laying down the rules for more than $45 billion in spending. The agency’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration released the Notice of Funds Opportunity for its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as expected. The IIJA allocated $65 billion in funding for broadband spending, with at least $45 billion allocated to the NTIA through these three programs. The $42.5 billion for BEAD is designed to address last-mile broadband connectivity. The $1 billion for middle mile spending addresses the “secondary highways” — in between data centers and individual homes — that allow our internet to work. The additional $1.5 billion is for states to engage in programs designed to address digital equity.
After more than a decade of supporting Maine’s Internet infrastructure with subsidies in form of projects like MSL Network, 3-Ring Binder, grants etc., we are still in a position where seemingly everyone with a grudge or other motivation will make dismissive comments about Maine's Internet infrastructure status. Unfortunately, facts on the ground do support most of such comments.
With the prospect of the State receiving about $129M from Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Plan for BB in addition to the $15M bond already approved by Mainers, all players in the industry are, understandably, frantically excited. Some are talking about ‘a tsunami of federal funds’.
To avoid wasteful distribution of our tax dollars, high administrative standards need to be set by those who dispense it. Careful considerations and clear rules, oversight, vetting and contracts that spell out accountability will have to govern the selection of those on the receiving end, those experts who promise to get the now hard-to-reach and underserved communities online with a connection that is reliable and fast. Perhaps the proposed restructuring of ConnectMaine to create the Maine Connectivity Authority will be helpful in that respect.
With respect to the debated redefining of what constitutes Broadband as a marker for grant consideration, I would hope for some thoughtful flexibility should Maine’s new standard for Broadband be the 100Mbs up/down throughput. Such high standard (the FCC will most likely set the bar to that standard also) will be hard to adhere to for everyone in Maine and likely delay reaching the main goal of providing every community with a reasonably fast Internet connection.
So far, public comments to LD 1484 suggest that most of the interested parties hoping for grant money are the same that have ‘got us where we are right now’, with quite some enthusiasm for future business.