News from the ITA

June 12, 2020

 

U.S. Small Business Administration Determines Telephone Cooperatives are Eligible for Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) recently passed by Congress included more than $310 billion in new funding to help small businesses support their payroll costs. The U.S. Small Business Administration announced this week they have extended eligibility for this program to include telephone cooperatives organized under section 501(c)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code.   

"SBA understands that many telephone co-ops are exempt from federal taxation under section 501(c)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code, but that they also provide a critical utility service, and distribute savings to their member-owners. As such, SBA has determined that telephone cooperatives will be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, provided they meet the size standards for PPP, and are based in the United States. You can find out more about the SBA size standards, and the PPP program, by visiting sba.gov


FCC Adopts Order Establishing Bidding Procedures for Phase I of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

The FCC this week adopted an order that establishes the procedures for Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction (Auction 904), which will award up to $16 billion in support over 10 years for the deployment of fixed broadband networks to unserved homes and businesses across rural America. The $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund prioritizes bids for higher speed—up to 1 Gbps—and lower latency networks, and more than doubles the minimum speed from the FCC’s 2018 Connect America Phase II auction to 25/3 Mbps.

Bidding in the auction will begin on October 29, 2020, with the application window for potential bidders opening on July 1. The Public Notice adopts application procedures to ensure that bidders have the business experience and financial means to deploy broadband networks and intend to use a network technology that will allow them to meet performance requirements. The FCC said Commission staff will closely scrutinize applications to ensure that all applicants are proposing to use technologies with demonstrated success in providing mass market retail broadband to consumers to ensure taxpayer funding is not wasted. 

Phase II of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will make available at least $4.4 billion, in addition to unallocated funds from Phase I, to target partially served areas using precise, granular broadband coverage data being developed in the Commission’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection proceeding along with areas not won in the Phase I auction.


Annual Partner Spotlight from Mid-State Consultants

The Need for Rural Broadband in a COVID-19 World

According to the 2019 Broadband Progress Report issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), approximately 19 million American households still lack access to fixed broadband service at threshold speeds, 14.5 million of which, are located in rural areas. The internet that does exist in these areas is typically slower and more expensive than it is for urban communities, and on top of that, the rural population generally earns less than those in urban areas. Broadband is becoming as essential as running water and electricity for rural American homes, farms and businesses. It’s not just about social media and entertainment – access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet is vital to the survival of rural communities.

In a COVID-19 world, approximately 40% of adults are now working from home. Schools have moved online, requiring students of all levels to attend virtual classes and submit digital assignments. Telemedicine is also on the rise, with the need to prevent the flooding of hospitals and doctor’s offices. Telework, education and telemedicine are severely affected by access to broadband at home, and the disparities in broadband have become even more apparent in the wake of the global health crisis. Rural communities have turned to public hotspots to meet the needs of residents. Parking lots, school buses and the like have been set up for community members to gather and access the internet from their vehicles. COVID-19 has revealed America’s broadband gap, and the need for fixed broadband service in rural areas will continue to disadvantage millions of Americans until the issue is addressed.

Mid-State Consultants Inc. continues to focus on providing essential engineering services as we move through this difficult time. Contact Tom Schultz at (920) 872-2902 to learn more about our full turn-key services.


2020 ITA Virtual Conference Banner

Thank you to all our members who participated in our first virtual convention. We had a great series of presentations from industry leaders on a wide variety of timely and important issues. And thanks to our Annual Partners who sponsored the convention. Whether you were able to participate in the convention or not, take a moment to fill out our brief survey to share your opinions about the fall Vendors Showcase and the virtual convention.