Today's Regulatory Mix: USDA Rural Broadband Grants In Arkansas, Indiana, and Wisconsin, FCC Biennial Report On CVAA, NTIA Digital Inclusion Webpage
USDA Rural Broadband Grants In Arkansas, Indiana, and Wisconsin
The USDA announced three new broadband grants. In Arkansas, the USDA will invest $11.8 million to allow three providers to offer broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Arkansas. Specifically:
- Mountain View Telephone Company (MVTC) will use a $2.9 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 1,331 people, 39 farms, six businesses, two fire stations, and one post office to high-speed broadband internet in Stone County, Arkansas.
- Northern Arkansas Telephone Company (NATCO) will use a $4.7 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 1,202 people, 68 farms, and six businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Marion County, Arkansas.
- Arkansas Telephone Company (ATC) will use a $4.1 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 491 people, 92 farms, and four businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Pope and Van Buren counties in Arkansas.
In Indiana, the USDA will invest $1 million to enable Tipmont Rural Electric Membership Corporation to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 279 people, 10 businesses and 16 farms to high-speed broadband internet in Indiana’s Fountain County.
Finally, in Wisconsin, the USDA will invest $3 million enable Ntera, LLC to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 2,044 people, 33 farms and 33 businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Chippewa, Rusk, and Taylor counties in Wisconsin.
NTIA Digital Inclusion Webpage
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced that it added a new digital inclusion section to its BroadbandUSA program website. The webpage compiles resources and program information from federal agencies as well as state and local governments that are working across the country to close gaps in broadband adoption and use, affordability, access to devices, and digital skills. The new section on the website will help federal agencies, states, and localities develop strategies and plans to address the digital divide. It includes a Federal Resource list containing information about digital inclusion programs, publications, and data to complement the federal funding information in the BroadbandUSA Federal Funding Guide.
FCC Biennial Report On CVAA
The FCC submitted its Biennial Report to Congress assessing industry compliance with the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Federal Communications Act of 2010 (CVAA). The report concludes that the ten years since enactment of the CVAA have seen significant advancements in the accessibility of telecommunications and advanced communications services and equipment and that these positive developments have continued over the past two years. The FCC said it will continue to monitor accessibility developments and are encouraged by the stakeholders’ continued collaboration to ensure accessibility for millions of Americans with disabilities.
Among other things, the FCC found there was significant improvements in the accessibility of telecommunications and advanced communications services and equipment over the past two years. In particular: (1) smartphones continue to innovate and incorporate technologies and features that enable improved access to telecommunications and advanced communications services; (2) speech-to-text and text-to-speech technology, voice assistants, and screen readers continue to advance; and (3) newer devices such as smart speakers and enhanced compatibility between assistive technologies and advanced communications equipment enable more people with disabilities to communicate. Despite these significant improvements, the Report finds that gaps continue to exist with respect to (1) the availability of accessible mobile phones with low-end features, functions, and prices (feature phones) for people who are blind and (2) certain apps that provide telecommunications and advanced communications services that were not readable by screen readers.
The Report also finds that over the past two years, there have been continued improvements in the usability of services and equipment that are subject to the CVAA. Covered entities are offering an increasing number of ways for consumers to locate accessibility assistance—including through their websites and expanding their accessibility training for their customer care representatives. Nevertheless, it also found that some consumers continue to face difficulties finding accessible information and customer care services. For instance, entities sometimes do not provide an accessible way to locate relevant information about the accessible features of a phone.
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The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.