Friday, January 18, 2013

FCC's gigabit goal will require significant public investment

FCC pushes for gigabit broadband in all 50 states by 2015 | Politics and Law - CNET News: The FCC hopes the Gigabit City Challenge will further these types of efforts. The FCC hasn't committed any funds to the "Gigabit Challenge," but the agency said it will help communities create an online clearinghouse of best practices to help educate local officials and local service providers on the most cost-effective ways to increase broadband deployments.

This will require the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service be sufficiently funded with grant and loan money to help communities meet the FCC's challenge with publicly and cooperatively owned fiber to the premises infrastructure.  Sharing best practices alone won't do the job considering the billions that will be needed to upgrade and replace America's obsolete copper cable infrastructure now being kept on life support with trash bags and baling wire.  In 2009, the FCC estimated it would take $350 billion to construct this needed infrastructure.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The distributed workplace: A new model for the Internet economy

In this white paper, Michael Shear, president of the Washington, DC-based Broadband Planning Initiative, posits a meta shift is at hand as the economy increasingly becomes knowledge and information-based. That shift heralds the obsolescence of the centralized office building and the massive transportation infrastructure that serves it, accompanied by the expansion of Information and Telecommunications infrastructure (ICT). The expansion of ICT infrastructure in turn enables what Shear describes as the distributed workplace in which people will work in the communities where they live rather than leading a bifurcated existence most days between their work location and community of residence.

Shear's distributed workplace entails community work centers containing multiple suites with each suite serving 15-50 workers from one company or agency. With a dozen or more tenant organizations, Shear writes, each work center could support 150 to 1000 employees. "Employees will have the capability to work for major business and government employers around the metropolitan or regional area from a networked work center located in their communities," Shear notes, enhancing the quality of their lives and their communities. He adds his distributed workplace model "takes advantage of the changing nature of work and balances deployment with security and management oversight while enhancing economic growth and competitiveness."

Shear's concept is decidedly progressive and tinted green in that it reduces wasteful commuting and its enormous personal, economic and environmental cost burdens. For big government towns such as Washington and Sacramento where government agencies have adopted but struggled over the years to implement telework policies, the distributed workplace could provide a way to break the logjam and move forward.

Another major potential beneficiary of Shear's new way of working is the commercial real estate industry. The economic downturn has created numerous vacant properties of various sizes ranging from small storefronts to large auto dealerships that could function as distributed workplace sites.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Internet co-creator says U.S. broadband competition has ‘evaporated’ - Yahoo! News

Internet co-creator says U.S. broadband competition has ‘evaporated’ - Yahoo! News: Cerf didn’t offer any concrete suggestions for ways to make the American broadband market more competitive, but generally dismissed the idea that deregulating broadband services would magically lead to more options and lower prices for consumers.

Mr. Cerf's dearth of suggestions to increase competition is because there are none as long as he's talking about investor-owned telecommunications infrastructure competition.  What's needed to end years of these continuing lamentations by Cerf and others is publicly- or consumer-owned open access fiber to the premise infrastructure where service providers pay for network access and compete for customers.  As Andrew Cohill aptly put it a few years ago, the current investor-owned model is broken because it's about as economically inefficient and nonsensical as having package delivery predicated on Federal Express or UPS to first have to invest in building private roads so their delivery trucks can reach customers.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

It's all about infrastructure, stupid

Council wants broadband minimum speeds redefined - News - The Charleston Gazette - West Virginia News and Sports -: State law now sets 200 kilobits per second as the minimum broadband speed, one of the slowest limits in the nation.

"It's nonsensical in this day and age," said Gale Given, West Virginia state government's chief technology officer.

Several council members suggested setting the minimum broadband speed at 4 megabits per second.

The Federal Communications Commission suggested that every U.S. household have a 4-megabit Internet download speed by 2020. The FCC determined that minimum speed would be sufficient to send and receive emails, download Web pages and use videoconferencing.

The entire debate and policymaking drill over "broadband speeds" is itself becoming obsolete the with growth in fiber to the premise infrastructure capable of 1 gigabyte and faster throughput.  To paraphrase the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign slogan, it's not about speed.  It's all about infrastructure, stupid.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Suggested amendments to proposed Community Connect Broadband Grant program rules

Too many American communities lack adequate Internet telecommunications infrastructure, a situation President Barack Obama deplored in his 2012 State of the Union speech.  Lots of these communities would like to build their own fiber to the premises networks that can connect every home and business and provide fast, future proof service while keeping local dollars in the community.

A major stumbling block facing these communities is financing the cost of retaining engineers and consultants to do the necessary initial design and business planning work before any fiber infrastructure can be deployed.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is in a position to help with its Community Connect Broadband Grant program by creating provisions for technical assistance grants to defray these costs.

RUS is currently soliciting comment on proposed rules governing the Community Connect Broadband Grant program.  As written, the proposed rules contain no provisions for technical assistance funding.   The proposed rules also fail to take into account the often spotty, hit or miss availability of wireline connectivity that exists in many of these poorly served areas. Communities have the opportunity to file comment in the rulemaking by January 15 and request these deficiencies be remedied.

Below is sample comment language communities can file with the RUS suggesting amendments to the proposed rules to allow for technical assistance grants.  This funding will help enable communities to move forward with these sorely needed projects to ensure their citizens and business owners have the 21st Century telecommunications infrastructure they need now and in the future.  Comments can be filed electronically by the January 15 deadline by clicking on the "Comment Now" button in the upper right hand part of the rulemaking proceeding page linked above.
Sec.  1739.11  Eligible Community Connect Competitive Grant Project.
    To be eligible for a Community Connect competitive grant, the 
Project must:
        (a) Serve a PFSA in which Broadband Service does not currently 
exist. served by a telephone central switching office or similar facility where at least one premise is not 
offered wireline, facilities-based broadband service;
    (b) Offer service at the Broadband Grant Speed to all residential 
and business customers within the PFSA;
    (c) Offer free service at the Broadband Grant Speed to all Critical 
Community Facilities located within the PFSA for at least 2 years 
starting from the time service becomes available to each Critical 
Community Facility; and
    (d) Provide a Community Center with at least two (2) Computer 
Access Points and wireless access at the Broadband Grant Speed, free of 
all charges to all users for at least 2 years.

Comment: This amendment is necessary because broadband service is highly granular even in rural areas where availability of facilities-based, wireline service is spotty and can vary within communities and from premise to premise. 

Sec.  1739.12  Eligible grant purposes.
    Grant funds may be used to finance the following:
    (a) The construction, acquisition, or leasing of facilities, 
including spectrum, land or buildings, used to deploy service at the 
Broadband Grant Speed to all residential and business customers located 
within the Proposed Funded Service Area and all participating Critical 
Community Facilities, including funding for up to ten Computer Access 
Points to be used in the Community Center. Leasing costs will only be 
covered through the advance of funds period included in the award 
    (b) The improvement, expansion, construction, or acquisition of a 
Community Center and provision of Computer Access Points. Grant funds 
for the Community Center will be limited to ten percent of the 
requested grant amount;
    (c) The cost of providing the necessary bandwidth for service free 
of charge to the Critical Community Facilities for 2 years.
 (d) As technical assistance for the retention of consultants and experts for economic research and engineering and business planning and community outreach.
(e) Applications for technical assistance pursuant to Subsection (d) shall not be subject to Section 1739.17.

Comment: This amendment is necessary in order to assist communities cover initial diligence costs and to aid in the preparation of applications for Rural Utilities Service broadband loan and grant programs.  Proper diligence in the early stage of a project will help ensure the financial viability of planned projects and repayment of loan proceeds.

Sec.  1739.14  Matching contributions.
    (a) At the time of closing of the award, the awardee must 
contribute or demonstrate available cash reserves in an account(s) of 
the awardee equal to at least 15% of the grant. Matching contributions 
must be used solely for the Project and shall not include any financial 
assistance from federal sources unless there is a federal statutory 
exception specifically authorizing the federal financial assistance to 
be considered as such. An applicant must provide evidence of its 
ability to comply with this requirement in its application.
    (b) At the end of every calendar quarter, the award must submit a 
schedule to RUS that identifies how the match contribution was used to 
support the project until the total contribution is expended.
(c) No match shall be required for technical assistance funding pursuant to Section 1739.12(d)

Comment: This amendment is necessary because raising matching funding for diligence and planning purposes is considerably more difficult than for construction costs of deploying a project that has undergone diligence demonstrating its likely technical and financial feasibility.  It will help increase the likelihood of more community-based projects being undertaken and expanding the availability of broadband services.

Sec.  1739.15  Completed application.
Add new subsection (m) as follows:    

(m) Applications for technical assistance funding pursuant to Section 1739.12(d) shall include only 
those items delineated at subsections (a) and (b)(1) through (3).

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Broadband Expert Survey of US Consumers Finds 94% Believe They Are Overpaying for Their Broadband Service - Houston Chronicle

Broadband Expert Survey of US Consumers Finds 94% Believe They Are Overpaying for Their Broadband Service - Houston Chronicle

In a nationwide survey of more than 30,000 online consumers conducted by Broadband Expert, an overwhelming majority of respondents -- 94% -- believe they are paying too much for their broadband package and more than 25% have only one Internet provider to choose from. Of those surveyed 77% of respondents said they would like an easy apples-to-apples solution to be able to compare plans and prices when choosing a provider.

When asked about the ease of currently shopping for and comparing plans, 35% are totally discouraged by the complexity of comparing carriers on multiple websites. Even more alarming one-third of Americans do not know where to even start to shop for and compare broadband prices and services.

“Based on our online survey, it is clear that American consumers are frustrated with the amount they are being charged for internet access and are looking for an easy way to shop for and compare digital services such as Internet, TV and phone,” said Rob Webber, CEO, Broadband Expert. Webber goes on to say that he believes “like for like comparison of internet service providers and their packages helps encourage competitive pricing and better deals for consumers”.
Americans aren't going to get the kind of market they want until the business model changes.  Due to high barriers to entry, it's not practical to have competing telecommunication infrastructure any more than it is to have competition for other types of infrastructure like roads and highways.  What's needed is publicly or consumer owned open access telecommunications infrastructure where service providers compete on price and service.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Tweed residents angry about broadband service to the area | Northern Star

Tweed residents angry about broadband service to the area | Northern Star: "When we lived in West Tweed on Kennedy Dr we got told we were too far from the interchange."

Mr Vivian was stuck with Telstra's mobile broadband solution.

"The only one we can get reception for in Tweed is Telstra 4G," he said.

"It's $60 for eight gigabytes.

"But it's so slow you might as well not use it sometimes."

This is occurring in Australia.  However, the same scenario is likely also playing out in the United States.
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