Conexon Blog

A Lost Decade: Ten years ago, the federal government began to implement a broadband policy that put rural America at a structural economic disadvantage to the rest of the country. We can do better.

It’s been over a decade since passage of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), which in part allocated many millions of dollars to the FCC to write a national broadband plan. By the summer of 2009, dozens of consultants were beavering away in FCC offices. An FCC task force was created, leading to 36 […]
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The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund: A Proposal to Include Local Community Support in the RDOF Auction

Chairman Pai’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is the most significant rural infrastructure initiative of our time. At over $20 billion, there is sufficient funding in the RDOF to support the most advanced fiber optic services to every rural home in the nation. The program has the potential to become the Rural Electrification Act of […]
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Correcting a Fatal Flaw in the ReConnect Program: A Proposal for a Safe Harbor Procedure

For the most part, the ReConnect program rules are well constructed and put an emphasis on the right metrics: those areas of the country most expensive to serve and least well-served. In modeling done by the FCC and by those of us engaged in the construction of rural networks, the network economics at a population […]
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When Nothing is Better than Something: Your rural community may be blocked from receiving better internet service because of the availability of satellite. And what you can do about it.

The Connect America Fund II auction was largely a success. For less than half the money per location previously spent on 4/1 Mbps and 10/1 Mbps services, rural electric cooperatives have secured $250 million in funding to build fiber networks and offer Gigabit services. And then there was the participation by a single satellite bidder […]
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Congratulations, Mississippi Electric Coops! Now, let’s build some rural broadband networks.

At a Broadband Communities conference a while ago, the theme was: There is not just one “right way.” I disagree, at least when it comes to electric coops. There is a right way. Fiber-to-the-home networks, like electric networks, are large-scale infrastructure projects. It is important to understand what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and why. […]
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Dear RUS: How to Prove a Negative (Part 2)

In addition to the criteria described in Part 1, I propose one more criterion concerning the validity of the National Broadband Maps: evidence of consumer decisions. If, by surveys or outreach, it becomes evident that fewer than 10% of the households subscribe to an ISP’s service, the RUS should count the area as unserved by […]
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Dear Rural Utilities Service: How to Prove a Negative, or Why the National Broadband Maps stink and what to do about it (Part 1)

The Rural Utilities Service is seeking comment on several aspects of its new rural broadband pilot program. The most significant of the questions relates to where public funds may be spent. Congress has determined that the funds be used only in areas unserved by broadband, where unserved is defined in the first year as areas […]
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Overbuilding, aka Competition, is the American Way

When I was a college and graduate student, I studied the Soviet Union – its history, military, culture, and economic system. I studied Russian language at language immersion programs here and in the Soviet Union. During the beginning of end of the Cold War, when Gorbachev first became president, I lived in the Soviet Union. […]
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Five Buckets of Federal Funding for Rural Broadband – A Primer

Over the past decade, federal programs that support broadband have adopted various approaches in determining who gets funding where: grant applications, auctions, portable consumer subsidies, and legacy subsidies for incumbent telephone companies. The following is a primer on the five largest sources of federal funds for rural broadband and the mechanisms currently in place. CAF […]
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New York Does Rural Broadband Right

Something extraordinary happened yesterday in the world of rural broadband. The state of New York announced the winning bidders in Phase 3 of its rural broadband auction, and the largest winning bidder was – Verizon. The same Verizon that has for years eschewed rural service, sold off its rural networks, let its copper plant degrade, […]
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FCC to rural America: Drop Dead, part 2.

The FCC declares that 432,302 rural homes and small businesses now have broadband service. Rural broadband problem solved. At the end of the year, the FCC released data that it knows to be inaccurate, which will damage the lives and livelihoods of millions of our fellow citizens who live and work in rural America. In […]
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The Risk of Fraudulent Bidding in the FCC Connect America Fund Auction

When I was hired at the FCC in 2012, I was asked to work on reforms of various FCC spending programs. The FCC administers over $11 billion in annual spending through several programs, the largest of which include support for rural and high cost areas, schools and libraries, rural health care institutions, low-income households, and […]
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Let Rural Consumers Decide their Broadband Future: Five Steps to Gigabit Service throughout Rural America

When I worked at the FCC, folks at that agency seemed simultaneously confident and puzzled about certain phenomena. Confident that it was too expensive to build fiber optic networks throughout rural America, and puzzled about how best to encourage the telephone companies to improve their networks. The one mechanism never tried by the FCC was […]
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The New Trumpfone Program

If you liked the $9.25 per month Obamaphone program, you’ll love the $100,000 per subscriber Trumpfone program. First, the arithmetic of it. The FCC is preparing to spend over $100K per subscriber on broadband subsidies for certain technologies. The proposed Connect America Fund (CAF) auction caps the amount a provider can receive per location at […]
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The FCC protects legacy networks. Let rural consumers choose their future with portable subsidies.

  In 1995, at a ceremony at the FCC, I had the privilege of representing the largest of a new wave of wireless providers, the winning bidders in the first broadband PCS auction. When asked at that ceremony how we expected to compete against the cellular companies, who had been given free licenses over a […]
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FCC to Rural America: Drop Dead

The FCC is Wrong. It’s your turn, Mr. Trump, to support rural America as it supported you. When I worked at the FCC from 2012-2016, I proposed various ways to provide the same level of internet access service to rural America as is enjoyed by urban and suburban America. I am a lifelong Republican, which was […]
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Waiting for Harry Potter

A couple of years ago, the fiber line that runs past our house was accidentally cut, leaving the sheared cable lying across our driveway. Verizon was terrific at responding and repairing the line, and while I waited, I took my boys out on a type of Internet search. The search for the physical Internet. First, […]
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Four Tenets of Rural Broadband

Residential broadband is not merely a speed. Broadband is the capability to provide internet access service with the speed, capacity and latency necessary for whatever number of devices is normally in use at a home at any given time. Only two technologies meet that definition of broadband: fiber optic service, and cable service using DOCSIS […]
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End Telephone Welfare

Recently, Congress voted on the FCC’s decision to expand Lifeline program to broadband services. By all means, Congress should question whether the FCC is ensuring that essential telecommunications services are affordable, whether free cell phone service is necessary, whether $9.25 per month is sufficient for low-income families to purchase broadband. While it’s at it, Congress […]
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