Broadband e-Connectivity Pilot Program, 35609 [2018-16014]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 145 / Friday, July 27, 2018 / Notices Done at Washington, DC, this 19th day of July 2018. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Acting Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. [FR Doc. 2018–16100 Filed 7–26–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–22–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Rural Utilities Service Broadband e-Connectivity Pilot Program Rural Utilities Service, USDA. ACTION: Notice of inquiry and request for comments. AGENCY: The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, invites comment on the implementation of certain provisions of its pilot broadband program (e-Connectivity Pilot) established on March 23, 2018, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. The e-Connectivity Pilot was appropriated $600 million in budget authority to be operated under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 on an expedited basis. Loans and grants are limited to the costs of the construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible communities. DATES: Comments are due on or before 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 10, 2018. ADDRESSES: Submit comments, identified as e-Connectivity Pilot, by either of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and, in the lower ‘‘Search Regulations and Federal Actions’’ box, select ‘‘Rural Utilities Service’’ from the agency drop-down menu, then click on ‘‘Submit.’’ In the Docket ID column, select RUS–18– TELECOM–0004 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket after the close of the comment period, is available through the site’s ‘‘User Tips’’ link. • Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send your comment addressed to Michele Brooks, Rural Development Innovation Center, Regulations Team Lead, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Stop 1522, Room 1562, Washington, DC amozie on DSK3GDR082PROD with NOTICES1 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:38 Jul 26, 2018 Jkt 244001 20250. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. RUS–18– TELECOM–0004. Other Information: Additional information about Rural Development and its programs is available on the internet at https://www.usda.gov/topics/ rural. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 779 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115–141) appropriated $600 million for a pilot broadband program (e-Connectivity Pilot) to be operated under the Rural Electrification Act (RE Act) of 1936 (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq.). The e-Connectivity Pilot was directed to expedite loans and grants for the costs of the construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible rural areas. Those areas are defined as having at least 90 percent of the households without sufficient access to broadband, defined as 10 Mbps downstream, and 1 Mbps upstream. Applications for eligible rural areas are prohibited from over-building or duplicating broadband expansion efforts made by any entity that has received a broadband loan from the Rural Utilities Service. Applications must also be evaluated by the service area assessment requirements of Section 601(d)(10) of the RE Act (7 U.S.C. 950bb(d)(10)) so that existing broadband providers may provide input on service in the proposed service area. In the absence of responses, RUS is directed to use the most current data of the National Broadband Map, or any other data regarding the availability of broadband service that may be collected or obtained through reasonable efforts. Notice of Inquiry and Request for Comment RUS seeks input on several questions concerning development of the eConnectivity Pilot. Comments are requested from a broad range of stakeholders with an interest in rural broadband deployment. Specifically, RUS seeks comment on the following: (1) Eligible rural areas are defined as having at least 90 percent of the households without sufficient access to broadband, defined in the law as 10 Mbps downstream, and 1 Mbps upstream. At present, RUS is working to determine what types of technologies and services are defined as ‘‘sufficient access.’’ In particular, RUS is seeking information about the transmission capacity required for economic development, and speed and latency, especially in peak usage hours, to ensure rural premises have access to PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 35609 coverage similar to that offered in urban areas. Comments are specifically requested on whether affordability of service should be included in evaluating whether an area already has ‘‘sufficient access’’ and how to benchmark affordability of internet services. And if so, what equates to consumers’ costs being so high that they are effectively rendered inaccessible to rural households? Further, what other elements should RUS consider when defining sufficient access? (2) RUS uses a combination of a Public Notice Filing—Public Notice Response process through our online mapping tool and the most current data of the National Broadband Map, or any other data regarding the availability of broadband service that may be collected or obtained through reasonable efforts. RUS’ mapping tool will publicly post proposed service territories of applicants to allow existing service providers an opportunity to comment if 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream service exists for households in the proposed service area or not. Notwithstanding this data, comments are sought on how data speeds are to be used or verified, given the limited availability of publicly-available information regarding accurate broadband speeds provided to rural households. Additionally, what other sources of data availability should be used for evaluation? (3) RUS is working to ensure that projects funded by the e-Connectivity pilot provide improvements to rural prosperity. This includes projects that benefit rural industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, e-commerce, transportation, health care, and education. Comments are specifically requested on effective methods that can measure leading indicators of potential project benefits for these sectors, using readily available public data. USDA is also aiming to improve rural economies, especially for those being served. Comments are also being sought on how to evaluate the viability of applications that include local utility partnership arrangements, including locally-owned telecommunications companies where possible. Dated: July 17, 2018. Jonathan P. Claffey, Senior Policy Advisor, Rural Utilities Service. [FR Doc. 2018–16014 Filed 7–26–18; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P E:\FR\FM\27JYN1.SGM 27JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 145 (Friday, July 27, 2018)]
[Notices]
[Page 35609]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-16014]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Rural Utilities Service


Broadband e-Connectivity Pilot Program

AGENCY: Rural Utilities Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of inquiry and request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an agency of the United 
States Department of Agriculture, invites comment on the implementation 
of certain provisions of its pilot broadband program (e-Connectivity 
Pilot) established on March 23, 2018, in the Consolidated 
Appropriations Act of 2018. The e-Connectivity Pilot was appropriated 
$600 million in budget authority to be operated under the Rural 
Electrification Act of 1936 on an expedited basis. Loans and grants are 
limited to the costs of the construction, improvement, and acquisition 
of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible 
communities.

DATES: Comments are due on or before 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on 
September 10, 2018.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments, identified as e-Connectivity Pilot, by 
either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and, in the lower ``Search Regulations and Federal 
Actions'' box, select ``Rural Utilities Service'' from the agency drop-
down menu, then click on ``Submit.'' In the Docket ID column, select 
RUS-18-TELECOM-0004 to submit or view public comments and to view 
supporting and related materials available electronically. Information 
on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing 
documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket after the close 
of the comment period, is available through the site's ``User Tips'' 
link.
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send your comment 
addressed to Michele Brooks, Rural Development Innovation Center, 
Regulations Team Lead, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 
Independence Ave. SW, Stop 1522, Room 1562, Washington, DC 20250. 
Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. RUS-18-TELECOM-
0004.
    Other Information: Additional information about Rural Development 
and its programs is available on the internet at https://www.usda.gov/topics/rural.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 779 of the Consolidated 
Appropriations Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-141) appropriated $600 million 
for a pilot broadband program (e-Connectivity Pilot) to be operated 
under the Rural Electrification Act (RE Act) of 1936 (7 U.S.C. 901 et 
seq.). The e-Connectivity Pilot was directed to expedite loans and 
grants for the costs of the construction, improvement, and acquisition 
of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible rural 
areas. Those areas are defined as having at least 90 percent of the 
households without sufficient access to broadband, defined as 10 Mbps 
downstream, and 1 Mbps upstream. Applications for eligible rural areas 
are prohibited from over-building or duplicating broadband expansion 
efforts made by any entity that has received a broadband loan from the 
Rural Utilities Service. Applications must also be evaluated by the 
service area assessment requirements of Section 601(d)(10) of the RE 
Act (7 U.S.C. 950bb(d)(10)) so that existing broadband providers may 
provide input on service in the proposed service area. In the absence 
of responses, RUS is directed to use the most current data of the 
National Broadband Map, or any other data regarding the availability of 
broadband service that may be collected or obtained through reasonable 
efforts.

Notice of Inquiry and Request for Comment

    RUS seeks input on several questions concerning development of the 
e-Connectivity Pilot. Comments are requested from a broad range of 
stakeholders with an interest in rural broadband deployment. 
Specifically, RUS seeks comment on the following:
    (1) Eligible rural areas are defined as having at least 90 percent 
of the households without sufficient access to broadband, defined in 
the law as 10 Mbps downstream, and 1 Mbps upstream. At present, RUS is 
working to determine what types of technologies and services are 
defined as ``sufficient access.'' In particular, RUS is seeking 
information about the transmission capacity required for economic 
development, and speed and latency, especially in peak usage hours, to 
ensure rural premises have access to coverage similar to that offered 
in urban areas. Comments are specifically requested on whether 
affordability of service should be included in evaluating whether an 
area already has ``sufficient access'' and how to benchmark 
affordability of internet services. And if so, what equates to 
consumers' costs being so high that they are effectively rendered 
inaccessible to rural households? Further, what other elements should 
RUS consider when defining sufficient access?
    (2) RUS uses a combination of a Public Notice Filing--Public Notice 
Response process through our online mapping tool and the most current 
data of the National Broadband Map, or any other data regarding the 
availability of broadband service that may be collected or obtained 
through reasonable efforts. RUS' mapping tool will publicly post 
proposed service territories of applicants to allow existing service 
providers an opportunity to comment if 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps 
upstream service exists for households in the proposed service area or 
not. Notwithstanding this data, comments are sought on how data speeds 
are to be used or verified, given the limited availability of publicly-
available information regarding accurate broadband speeds provided to 
rural households. Additionally, what other sources of data availability 
should be used for evaluation?
    (3) RUS is working to ensure that projects funded by the e-
Connectivity pilot provide improvements to rural prosperity. This 
includes projects that benefit rural industries such as agriculture, 
manufacturing, e-commerce, transportation, health care, and education. 
Comments are specifically requested on effective methods that can 
measure leading indicators of potential project benefits for these 
sectors, using readily available public data. USDA is also aiming to 
improve rural economies, especially for those being served. Comments 
are also being sought on how to evaluate the viability of applications 
that include local utility partnership arrangements, including locally-
owned telecommunications companies where possible.

    Dated: July 17, 2018.
Jonathan P. Claffey,
Senior Policy Advisor, Rural Utilities Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-16014 Filed 7-26-18; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE P