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Broadband's Impact

U.S. Commerce Department Promotes Community Networks in Minneapolis Broadband Workshop

Drew Clark



September 5, 2014 - The agency responsible for articulating President Obama's communications policy is taking its campaign to promote community broadband initiatives on the road, and on Thursday in Minneapolis hosted its second workshop on the topic.

The event, "Building a Community Broadband Roadmap," featured remarks by Glenn Reynolds, chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, who touted the impact of the federal government's broadband stimulus efforts of 2009.

Here in Minnesota, we awarded $17 million to Eventis Telecom to build a 400-mile middle-mile network that is providing high-capacity, low-cost Ethernet connections across 23 rural counties and delivering speeds of up to 10 gigabits to more than 30 anchor institutions, including schools, libraries and healthcare facilities. We also gave a $5 million grant to the C.K. Blandin Foundation to promote a culture of broadband use in rural Minnesota by supporting community technology planning, offering digital literacy classes and e-commerce training for small business, and supplying refurbished computers and discounted Internet access for low-income residents….

Nationwide, our grantees built, upgraded or leased more than 112,000 miles of fiber and fixed wireless connections as of the end of 2013. They hooked up more than 24,000 community anchor institutions, including more than 10,000 K-12 schools, nearly 2,500 libraries and 2,400 medical facilities. And they established or upgraded 3,300 public computer centers and helped nearly 580,000 households sign up for broadband. At the same time, our State Broadband Initiative Program has supported more than 200 local broadband planning teams across the country.

The workshop followed a May 29 kickoff at which NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling urged states and local communities to "build on the momentum of our successful broadband grant program" even without access to federal funds.

Among the individuals or organizations speaking at the event included Minnesota state senators and representatives, as will as the Chair of the Governor's Task Force on Broadband, plus individuals from an array of companies and public-private partnership entities seeking to deploy community networks.

The NTIA often plays second-fiddle to the Federal Communications Communication on telecommunications matters. Legally, the FCC is an independent agency, while the NTIA has the statutory mandate to advise the president on matters of communications policy.



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