Sunday, October 29, 2006

Schwarzenegger issues executive order to expand broadband access

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has issued an executive order to expand broadband access in the Golden State. Schwarzenegger's Press Office says the order, Twenty-First Century Government: Expanding Broadband Access and Usage in California, is to "clear the government red tape for building broadband networks" and "ensure all government agencies are using the best technologies to serve the people." The order also creates a broadband task force to "identify and eliminate obstacles to making broadband internet access ubiquitous in the state." The governor sees broadband as a "great equalizer" when it's accessible to all Californians, an administration source tells me.

Schwarzenegger says expanding broadband access will ensure California's high tech leadership, promote economic growth and enhance government operations through telemedicine for healthcare, distance learning for education, and better coordination of public safety.

While not specifically mentioned in Schwarzenegger's order, expanding broadband in California would also promote telecommuting. That would reduce automobile trips on California's overcrowded and deteriorated freeways and roads as well as fuel usage and environmental pollution.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Broadband becoming an essential utility

Here's a story on some research that illustrates the urgency for rapid deployment of robust broadband Internet in El Dorado County and elsewhere as Americans and Canadians have come to regard broadband as essential as basic telephone service.

The research also found that 85 percent of all broadband household segments are interested in receiving multiple telecommunication services over their broadband connections.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Blue" California most likely to benefit from AB 2987

There's an interesting political angle to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent approval of AB 2987, the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006, that hasn't been picked up by the mainstream media.

Readers of this blog should be familiar with this legislation that takes effect next year and puts the California Public Utilities Commission in charge of issuing franchises to cable companies and telcos. For the major players such as Comcast and AT&T, the legislation requires the companies to upgrade their networks to provide video services and broadband Internet for only half or less of their service areas by Jan. 1, 2012.

Most likely, residents and businesses located in more densely populated coastal urban areas -- which also tend to lean Democratic and hence are dubbed "Blue" California -- will be in this group. Less densely populated inland areas -- Republican leaning "Red" California -- are likely to be given low priority by the cable and telco providers and left on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Schwarzenegger may have been attempting to make nice with legislative Democrats in this election year by approving AB 2987, championed by Democratic speaker Fabian Nunez. But he left his political base in GOP Red California hung out to dry while Blue California is likely to be first in line for advanced telecommunications and video services.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Big telcos see shift from DSL to fiber

Telecommunications Industry News reports big telcos such as AT&T and Verizon anticipate a movement away from copper-based Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) broadband service and toward fiber optic-based infrastructure, citing a similar trend in heavily fibered East Asia.

El Dorado County's incumbent telco, AT&T, hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment on industry reports that Ma Bell has ceased deployment of all new copper cable DSL infrastructure in AT&T's 13-state service area to focus exclusively on fiber installations.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Former FCC chair calls for "full scale policy debate" on U.S. digital divide

Excerpts from an op-ed by former FCC Chairman William E. Kennard in today's New York Times:

"The nation should have a full-scale policy debate about the direction of the broadband Internet, especially about how to make sure that all Americans get access to broadband connections."

"As chairman of the F.C.C., I put into place many policies to bridge the narrowband digital divide. The broadband revolution poses similar challenges for policymakers. America should be a world leader in broadband technology and deployment, and we must ensure that no group or region in America is denied access to high-speed connections. "

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hilary Clinton takes up broadband access cause

In the late 1960s, the federal government devised the Internet. Now it's time for the feds to speed its deployment in areas of the U.S. that lack broadband service, argues blogger Pretson Gralla.

Gralla puts in a plug for legislation by Sen. Hilary Clinton, who frames the issue in the context of helping her upstate New York constituents, many of whom live in broadband black holes. However, given Mrs. Clinton's former first lady status and much rumored presidential ambitions, her championing efforts to bridge the digital divide could put the issue in the national spotlight.

Mrs. Clinton's bill would create an Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives at the Department of Agriculture to provide grants and loan programs to spur investment in broadband infrastructure in underserved rural areas. It would also create a Rural Broadband Innovation Fund which would invest in broadband services to rural areas including satellite, fiber, WiFi, and broadband over power lines (BPL).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

AT&T sends mixed messages on broadband service

I recently blogged about the seeming arbitrariness of one El Dorado County neighbor with access to wireline high speed Internet while one nearby or even next door can’t get it. Most vexing.

There’s another huge annoyance. How many of you have seen or heard advertisements by AT&T for DSL on sale — as low as $12.99 a month — as if broadband connections were so plentiful Ma Bell would basically give them away cheap?

The pitches are seemingly everywhere. In full page newspaper ads, on television, and on the Internet where AT&T has teamed up with Yahoo. Even on the outside of the phone bill. They’re misleading and unrealistically raise customer expectations. One has to read through gobs of dense fine print to find the disclaimer: “Not available in all areas.” More accurately, it should read not available in many areas and not available in most areas of El Dorado County.

In other words, service is available. But maybe it isn’t. Here’s a striking example of AT&T’s Orwellian doublespeak excerpted from a news release the company issued today headlined AT&T Simplifies Residential Broadband Pricing and Adds New Speed Tier.

“AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet service is available in the company's 13-state incumbent local exchange areas,” the news release states. Then in the same sentence comes the qualifier: “where high speed Internet service is available...”

Like Ma Bell says, it’s available…but then again it really isn’t.

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