The Next Century Cities Weekly Bulletin
January 19, 2021

Five years ago this week, NCC celebrated the White House’s support for communities working to expand broadband. Years later, NCC is still laser-focused on expanding affordable, reliable, high-speed connectivity. Recognizing that widespread broadband access supports education, economic mobility, aging in place, and more, this week’s change in administration is an opportune time for leadership at every level of government to renew its support for local efforts to close the digital divide.
The FCC Needs Local Insights for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
In December 2020, Congress appropriated $3.2 billion for the FCC to administer an Emergency Broadband Benefit. On January 4, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission issued a public notice seeking comment on how to administer the program. Local officials can find out about program proposals and ways to participate in the proceeding here

Key Takeaways & Engagement Opportunities 
  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a monthly discount for eligible households, which would be subtracted from the monthly broadband service bill. 
  • The subsidy will likely be paid in the form of a reimbursement to participating providers. It is limited to $50.00/month, or $75.00/month in Tribal areas, for service and one connected device per eligible household.
  • Lifeline subscribers are also eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Participants may receive both benefits, either on the same or different services.  
  • The FCC is soliciting feedback on eligibility requirements. NCC is in support of a wide variety of provider participation – including large and small, private and municipally-owned, electric coop and mesh network models, etc. – being included in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. 
  • USAC will be responsible for conducting audits of the Emergency Broadband Program the program. The public comment cycle is an important stage for local officials to recommend specific metrics for success.   
  • The FCC needs community-level perspectives on the most effective ways to publicize the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. NCC will reiterate the importance of using targeted media outreach and creating resources for community leaders that help to inform low-income households who have limited access to announcements online. 
  • FCC should consider hosting town hall meetings and collaborating on public awareness campaigns with social service entities to enable local and state officials to promote the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. 

Local Officials Should Get Involved
NCC encourages local officials and community leaders to submit comments to the FCC on administering the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The agency is particularly interested in feedback on the following questions.
  • Which providers can participate in the program and what do such providers need to do to elect to participate?  
  • How should the Commission set up an expedited process for approving broadband providers for areas where they are not eligible telecommunications carriers?  
  • How should the Commission and providers track participating households and verify that they are eligible?  
  • What services and connected devices are eligible for reimbursement from the program? How should the Commission structure the reimbursement process?  
  • What rules are needed to ensure appropriate service on Tribal lands?  
  • How should the Commission and participating providers promote awareness of the program? What requirements are needed for robust auditing and enforcement of federal rules?  
  • What reporting requirements are needed both during the program and at its conclusion?

For information about the comment submission process, members can contact Ryan Johnston, Policy Counsel, Federal Programs. The comment deadline is January 25, 2021. Reply comments are due on February 16, 2021
NCC's Broadband 101 Webinar
On January 21st, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. EST, Next Century Cities will host a webinar for newly elected officials and staff. Broadband mapping, funding opportunities, and examples of local initiatives designed to improve broadband access and increase adoption rates are among the discussion topics. The conversation will also include a review of COVID-19’s impact on local broadband initiatives and how the Emergency Broadband Benefit can help support recovery efforts.
NCC Members in the News
#ConnectNM campaign is launched to expand broadband to residents statewide. The SUCCESS partnership formed in early 2020 has been critical to bringing attention to the broadband needs of unserved and underserved communities across New Mexico. They have created the #ConnectNM initiative to get gubernatorial support for broadband funding and expansion. New Mexico is home to two NCC member cities, Albuquerque and Socorro. (Las Cruces Sun News

Wisconsin’s Governor Tony Evers declares 2021 as the ‘Year of Broadband’. Emphasizing the role that the COVID-19 pandemic has played in bringing broadband connectivity to the forefront, Governor Evers indicated that he would prioritize expanding broadband access and adoption for Wisconsinites in the upcoming year. (The Capital Times

Alexandria, Virginia Mayor Justin Wilson seeks to expand broadband opportunities. During a town hall meeting on Thursday, January 7, 2021, Mayor Wilson discussed revisiting plans to improve broadband competition by expanding the City’s municipal fiber assets and leasing excess capacity for providers to service Alexandria residents and businesses. (ALXnow)
Broadband Headlines
The FCC held its final open meeting under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai on January 13th. The Chairman expressed his gratitude to the FCC staff for their hard work and dedication under his leadership, and also acknowledged there is more work to be done under the next chairperson. Aside from procedural items that were on the agenda, each of the Commission’s bureaus prepared summaries of the most impactful items that they have worked on over the last four years.    

After a provider quoted Washtenaw, Michigan resident Jared Mauch $50,000 to connect his house to their network, he started his own ISP, which now serves 30 residents. Mauch plans on expanding his network to potentially include hundreds of other rural residents. 

Five electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware formed a trade association for cooperatives that offer broadband service. The association will assist broadband cooperatives in legislative advocacy, communications, and marketing. 

The City of Williamsburg, Virginia began a pilot program offering free broadband service to residents in its Highland Park neighborhood, which is served by only one provider. After six months, the City will evaluate whether to expand the program. 
Upcoming Opportunities
The City of Philadelphia Request for Proposals (RFP)
The Mayor’s Fund of Philadelphia and the City’s Office of Innovation and Technology have extended a RFP to determine the number of households that are either without internet access or have unreliable internet access. Additional information about the request and submission requirements can be found here. Proposals should be submitted via email to: and
Oral or Written Testimony
Before MD General Assembly
The State of Maryland has scheduled a January 26th hearing on establishing the Office of Digital Inclusion in the Department of Housing and Community Development. It will develop a plan to help ensure that every Maryland resident has access to high-quality broadband Internet service at an affordable price and the tools required to get online. Local officials in Baltimore, Hagerstown, Montgomery County, and Westminster interested in offering testimony can find information here

Nominate Digital Equity Champions
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance, in collaboration with Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, is collecting nominations to recognize a Digital Equity Champion and an Emerging Leader for outstanding leadership in the digital equity and inclusion field. The submission deadline is February 12th. Awardees will be recognized at the Net Inclusion webinar series in April 2021. 

Panel Proposals
Policymakers, advocates, technologists, researchers, and digital rights experts from around the world will gather for the RightsCon Conference online in June 2021. Are you interested in making a presentation? The proposal deadline has been extended to January 26th.