Next Century Cities Monthly Newsletter
March 2020
Containment efforts around the coronavirus have exposed the importance of broadband. As schools close, businesses shut down, and public information distribution channels continue to migrate online, staying connected is a matter of survival. 
The FCC has shared its strategy to Keep Americans Connected . Congress is negotiating a stimulus package that should include funding for broadband expansion initiatives. Companies are stepping up with free and low-cost service plans for households that could not otherwise afford to subscribe. Meanwhile, state and local leaders have led problem-solving efforts for disconnected populations that continue to be at risk. 
At Next Century Cities, we know that local leadership is a trusted resource, especially in the communities that state and federal governments cannot reach. We have over 200 member municipalities in our coalition that are devoted to bringing broadband within reach for every resident. We will continue to elevate their voices and policy solutions in hopes that every American gets the connectivity required to weather this storm.

March's Policy Note

The Necessities of Connectivity: Telehealth and Online Education
Recent world events illustrate why broadband is front and center in keeping more businesses connected, children in school , and doctors in touch with their patients . The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has highlighted the importance of high-speed connectivity, the linchpin for local, state and federal emergency response efforts. Read more here from Ryan Johnston, Next Century Cities' Policy Counsel. He explains why broadband is increasingly indispensable.
NCC News

In March, Next Century Cities welcomed our newest member, Detroit, Mich. !

On March 10, 2020, NCC and National Consumer League submitted a letter in response to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s (OCC) Notice of Inquiry on proposals for its Universal Service Fund and Lifeline Program that could improve broadband access and adoption for residents in need. Read more about the joint letter here .

Next Century Cities joined over 200 organizations in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which called for increased support for the Lifeline program during the COVID-19 Outbreak. The letter urges the FCC to prohibit disconnections, expand data limits, and create an emergency Lifeline benefit for low-income households. These proposals are intended to mitigate the strain and increase capacity for Lifeline consumers. Read more here .
Is broadband essential to your city/county's COVID-19 relief efforts?
NCC Member News

Cedar Falls, Iowa is monitoring a bill in the Iowa State House that could threaten their municipally owned and operated broadband utility network. Their network, which has operated for almost 20 years, is one of the most successful broadband networks in the state. The new law would prohibit municipal broadband companies from charging prices that are discounted or competitive. It could also restrict financing options for future municipal networks. Read more here .

Louisville, Ky. releases RFP for a public wifi network. The Russell neighborhood in Louisville, Ky. will soon be receiving a public wifi network to provide broadband service around the clock. Currently, up to 80% of Russell residents do not subscribe to fixed broadband services, but the city hopes to improve subscription rates with this network. The RFP is now available here .
The 2020 Census

The Census Bureau has unveiled unique invitations to prevent fraud in the first digital census. The United States Census Bureau has distributed the first round of invitations to households around the country for our nation’s first digital census. The invitations will provide residents with unique response codes and instructions. The Department of Commerce is taking proactive steps to secure the process after critics and legislators have raised concerns about cybersecurity. ( GovTech )

2020 Census decisions will rely on flawed FCC data. The US Census Bureau recently described their methodology for determining where hard-copy census paperwork would still be delivered across the country. In explaining their logic, the bureau explained that FCC data will be used to identify underserved and unserved communities that should receive hard-copies. However, FCC commissioners have raised concerns about the use of FCC Form 477 data because of previous questions regarding the data’s accuracy and are urging the Census Bureau to take further steps. ( Axios )

All homes should have received their Census invitation by March 20.
Check out for more info.
The COVID-19 Outbreak

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks explains why Americans need broadband to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. In a recent op-ed with the New York Times, FCC Geoffrey Starks explained what steps the federal government needs to take to provide broadband access to all Americans and combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Read more here .

As most of the country moves online for school and work, internet service providers are implementing consumer-friendly policies to ensure an open and stable internet. Comcast, AT&T, and other internet service providers have begun implementing policies to ensure customers are remaining online at full capacity during the coronavirus outbreak. ( Consumer Reports )

The spread of COVID-19 is revealing major gaps in the ability of school districts to transition to virtual instruction. As the country continues to grapple with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many school districts and colleges are preparing to move their classes to an online format. However, FCC Commissioners are drawing attention to the millions of students who still lack an adequate broadband connection that would allow them to participate in these virtual classes and urging the government to take emergency steps to close the divide in low income communities as quickly as possible. ( USNews )

Work from home receives renewed attention in public discourse. In recent weeks, more companies and government agencies have been weighing the advantages of moving their workforce to work-from-home status for the foreseeable future. Doug Dawson, who has worked from home for at least two decades, unpacks the growth of the work-from-home movement and how it continues to alter the face of the American workforce. ( POTS and PANS )
Broadband in the News

The National Association of Counties finds that 65% of US counties receive broadband speeds below industry reports. A new report released by NaCo investigates the ways in which everyday citizens experience wireless and broadband services in counties across the United States. The study, conducted via the TestIT app, found that approximately half of counties experience broadband below the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum requirements. ( NaCo )

The FCC has approved up to 1 million data terminals for SpaceX. Following months of consideration, the FCC has granted approval for SpaceX to deploy up to 1 million terrestrial data terminals across the country to support their StarLink network. Deliberations have been ongoing for months, and were approved on March 20th. ( Yahoo Tech )

State and local government coalitions call upon the FCC to invest further in closing the digital divide. A group of local and state government coalitions recently submitted a joint letter to the FCC urging them to use the upcoming C-band auction to close the digital divide. In their letter, the groups call upon the FCC to use the funds from the auction to support infrastructure development, especially in unserved and underserved communities. ( GovTech )

Senate Commerce Committee passes the ACCESS BROADBAND Act. This week, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a bill that would create the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The office will be tasked with tracking all infrastructure projects being funded through federal dollars and hopes to consolidate widespread government data into one central location. Read more here

The Brookings Institute investigates the relationship between schools and broadband. Nicol Turner Lee from the Brookings Institute investigated two schools in Marion, Alabama, and Phoenix, Arizona, to understand the effects of federal funding on school connectivity. Often the recipients of E-Rate funding, schools are essential to ensuring full connectivity for communities and its future leaders, students. ( Brookings )

TV White Space provides a promising future for bridging the digital divide. This past week, Chairman Pai and the FCC voted to open a wider path for the expansion of “white space broadband.” This technique involves using the spectrum not actively being used between television channels to expand broadband, especially for rural communities. Microsoft has already been testing services within this space and its use is expected to grow. ( Vice )

Bipartisan group of US Senators call on the US Department of Agriculture to adjust Re-Connect requirements. A group of nine US Senators have written to Secretary Sonny Perdue in hopes of changing the current restrictions placed on USDA Re-Connect funds. When the program was established in 2018, the USDA enacted restrictions blocking funding for any regions that had previously received funding for satellite broadband expansion. The senators believe the language is contradictory and unfairly excludes hundreds of communities from receiving much needed funding. Read more here
Request for Proposals (RFPs)

Sign up at our website to receive an alert whenever a new RFP from one of our member communities is announced. You can also visit this page to read current and past RFPs from other communities. 
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