Roundtable on Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel convened this virtual roundtable discussion to gather public input on how to structure the new Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Congress appropriated $3.2 billion for a new a program that would enable eligible households to receive a discount on the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The roundtable allowed interested parties an opportunity to share ideas on the important public policy and program administration decisions that will shape the Commission’s approach to establishing the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The Commission is currently gathering comments on the program in response to a request for comment issued January 4, 2021. Reply comments are due February 16, 2021.
The event featured opening remarks from Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel as well as Commissioners Carr, Starks, and Simington. The roundtable discussion consisted of two, fifty-minute question-and-answer panels moderated by Bureau staff to examine key issues related to the program. The first panel discussed Emergency Broadband Benefit Program outreach and consumer enrollment considerations. Specifically, the panel focused on building awareness for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and issues the Commission should take into account to achieve an effective consumer application and enrollment experience.
The second panel focused on broadband provider participation and consumer choice in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The conversation considered the current broadband marketplace and how this should inform the Commission’s decisions regarding provider access to the program. Additionally, the panel discussed the provider enrollment process and ways that process can maximize consumers’ choice of robust broadband to meet their current needs.
10:00 AM - 10:25 AM — Opening Remarks
10:25 AM - 11:15 AM — Outreach and Enrollment Panel Discussion
Matthew Gerst, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA
Matthew Gerst leads CTIA’s efforts before the FCC on a variety of policy matters, including consumer protection, universal service, 9-1-1 and emergency communications, and access for people with disabilities. Matt also serves on USAC’s Board of Directors.
Erica Myers, Lead, Microsoft Airband US-Rural
Erica Myers is responsible for managing Microsoft’s Airband Initiative in rural America. The initiative focuses on closing the rural broadband gap in America and around the world, with the goal of bringing broadband access to 3 million unserved people living in rural America by 2022. Previously, Erica served as the Deputy General Counsel at the USAC. She has over 20 years of experience working on telecommunications with a focus on universal service issues. She also served as an attorney-advisor for the Federal Communications Commission working on a host of telecommunications and broadband policy issues.
Travis Noland, Manager of Government Relations, Cherokee Nation
Travis Noland is the manager of government relations for Cherokee Nation, the largest federally recognized tribal nation in the United States. His portfolio includes advocating for and implementing programs that expand access to affordable, reliable broadband throughout reservation, especially its most remote and underserved communities. During his nearly 16 year career with the Cherokee Nation, Noland has served in various communications roles in both the tribe’s government and businesses. He holds a degree in journalism from Oklahoma State University.
Angela Siefer, Executive Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Angela Siefer has been working in the field we now call digital inclusion since 1997. From physically setting up computer labs in underserved areas and managing local digital inclusion programs to consulting for the US. Department of Commerce and testifying before Congress, Angela develops national strategies and solutions from the ground up. In 2015, Angela helped found the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, a unified voice for home broadband access, public broadband access, personal devices and local technology training and support programs.
Trinity Thorpe-Lubneuski, Senior Director, Program Administration, Comcast Internet Essentials
Trinity Thorpe-Lubneuski leads administration for Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest broadband adoption program. Trinity received her bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University and earned a master’s degree in Social Work and Master of Science in Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Internet Essentials team she held position is government affairs (Comcast), data, strategy, and accountability (The School District of Philadelphia), and policy research (The Pew Charitable Trusts).
Olivia Wein, Attorney, National Consumer Law Center
Olivia Wein is a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), a non-profit focused on promoting economic security for low-income consumers. Olivia has expertise in federal low-income utility assistance programs including Lifeline and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Olivia also serves on the board of the Universal Services Administrative Company.
Dr. Fallon Wilson, Vice President of Policy, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council
Dr. Fallon Wilson is a public interest technologist and the newly named Vice President of Policy at the Multicultural Media and Telecommunication Internet Council (MMTC). She has a BA from Spelman College and MA/PhD from the University of Chicago and researches the building of thriving black tech ecosystems, locally and nationally.
11:15 AM - 11:20 AM — Break
11:20 AM - 12:10 PM — Provider Participation and Consumer Choice Panel
Virginia Lam Abrams, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs & Strategic Advancement, Starry, Inc.
Virginia Lam Abrams is Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Strategic Advancement for Starry, Inc., a wideband hybrid fiber wireless technology company focused on building competitive, affordable, high-quality broadband across the United States. In her role at the company, Virginia is responsible for leading Starry Connect, the company’s digital equity program focused on providing ultra-low-cost, low-barrier broadband access to public and affordable housing communities. Virginia represents Starry in front of governmental agencies at the local, state and federal level and engages with policymakers and the public interest community in advancing pro-consumer policies and competition in the broadband marketplace.
Brenda Victoria Castillo, President and CEO, National Hispanic Media Coalition
Brenda Victoria Castillo, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, is a Latinx Native woman, who is an activist, feminist, national strategic leader, and renowned speaker in the areas of diversity & inclusion, hate speech, media, civil rights, and social justice. She is an expert in alliance building, authentic storytelling, Latinx in entertainment, and women’s issues. Castillo is a big believer that digital rights is a human right, that there is a very real correlation between hate rhetoric and hate crimes, and that tech companies must be held accountable for the hate speech that is rampant on their platforms.
Anisa Green, Director, Federal Regulatory, AT&T
Anisa Green is currently Director of Federal Regulatory for AT&T. She has over 22 years of experience and expertise in regulatory, legal and advocacy work. She is based in the AT&T DC office on the Federal Regulatory team currently working on universal service and video regulatory issues, with a focus on lifeline, rural healthcare, media ownership and retransmission consent matters.
Steve Morris, Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, NCTA
Steve Morris is Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for NCTA – The Internet & Television Association. Mr. Morris represents NCTA on regulatory issues related to broadband and voice services. Prior to joining NCTA in 2006, he worked in the Wireline Competition Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission and in private practice.
Jonathan Nez, President, Navajo Nation
President Jonathan Nez currently serves as the President of the Navajo Nation. Jonathan Nez has devoted his life to public service as Shonto Chapter Vice President, Navajo County Supervisor, Navajo Nation Council Delegate, Navajo Nation Vice President, and now President of the Navajo Nation—a term he has served since January 15, 2019. President Nez holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Masters of Public Administration, both from Northern Arizona University. He and First Lady Phefelia H. Nez have two children, Christopher and Alexander.
Francella Ochillo, Executive Director, Next Century Cities
Francella Ochillo is Executive Director of Next Century Cities, a nonprofit composed of over 200 member municipalities across the U.S., that works to expand affordable and reliable high-speed broadband connectivity. An attorney and digital rights advocate, Francella has worked on a variety of technology and telecommunications issues with a specific focus on how policies affect underrepresented populations. Her work highlights the impact of broadband access and adoption on educational outcomes, economic mobility, the ability to age in place, and pathways for participating in our democracy. At Next Century Cities, Francella helps to create opportunities for local leaders to participate in a national dialogue about closing the digital divide in their communities. She is a member of the District of Columbia Bar and Federal Communications Bar Association.
Michael Romano, Senior Vice President of Industry Affairs & Business Development, NTCA
Mike Romano serves as senior vice president for NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, overseeing the organization's public policy, government affairs, and business development initiatives, as well as the educational and community-focused mission of the Foundation for Rural Service. Before joining NTCA, Mike held a variety of leadership positions within GTT Communications, Level 3 Communications, and America Online, in addition to his work with several law firms advising telecom and tech companies.
12:10 PM — Closing Remarks
For those that could not attend the live roundtable discussion, a recording of the event will be made available.