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Collaboration Called Key to EBB

Collaboration among stakeholders was described as a key to the FCC emergency broadband benefit. Speakers at NARUC in Denver, some of whom wanted something like EBB to continue indefinitely, said the program takes lots of work with community stakeholders and individual recipients. “It’s going to take a lot of collaboration, coordination" and “really doing the hard work,” said panel moderator and Connecticut regulator Michael Caron. “We are now trying to decide what is next” as people need broadband access, added the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority commissioner. “This looks like the new normal.” He doesn’t “think this is a temporary environment that we’re in.” Of EBB, “we think it needs to be permanent,” said Comcast Senior Vice President-External and Government Affairs Bret Perkins: “But it’s a significant step. And it’s going to be followed up by the Emergency Connectivity Fund” for educational institutions. There’s no “algorithm to solve” getting broadband to those lacking it, he said. “It’s hard work.” Speakers agreed EBB’s rollout is going OK. The Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership and other organizations getting the word out “are the glue that we need here,” said Perkins. Organizations such as HTTP helped consumers, figuring out what broadband plan to use, what ISP to buy service from, and other issues, said Executive Director Alejandro Roark. The “primary vehicle” to enroll is online, but many who could benefit lack such internet connections, he said. They could use a paper-based process, he noted: “For some, it’s easier to sit down and fill out the application” and submit it by postal mail. “It seems like we’ve been working with the program for ages,” said Tracfone Associate Vice President David Avila of the funding that got congressional OK in December. Such programs “are successful” only “through collaboration,” and having community advocates involved creates “credibility for the program,” he said: It helps to have “the providers in the community as well.” Toward the start of the panel, which had all participants in-person although the conference is a hybrid meeting (see 2107190074), Comcast’s Perkins said, “It’s great to be in 3D with actual people here.” He noted his trip was his first time on a plane during the COVID-19 pandemic.