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Panelists Named for FirstNet Webinar on Tuesday, October 15, at 11 a.m. ET: Britt, Kilbourne, Vallee

in Broadband TV/Congress/Public Safety/Wireless by

October 11, 2013 – The Broadband Breakfast Club’s second virtual event, a FREE webinar on the topic of “How Will FirstNet Improve Public Safety Communications?” to take place on Tuesday, October 15, at 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT., will feature Michael Britt, Program Manager, State of Arizona CIO’s Strategic Enterprise Technology Office; Brett Kilbourn, Vice President of Government and Industry Affairs, Utilities Telecom Council; and Bill Vallee, State Broadband Policy Coordinator, Office of Consumer Counsel, State of Connecticut.

REGISTER NOW for the Broadband Breakfast Club Virtual Event

FirstNet is an initiative designed to create, a nationwide interoperable public-safety wireless network. Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the FirstNet entity was created to shepherd this new public-private network into existence. One aspect of creating the network are the State and Local Grant Implementation Program, or the awards currently being announced by the NTIA. This webinar will consider the progress toward the development of this public safety network. BroadbandBreakfast.com Chairman and Publisher Drew Clark will moderate the discussion. Guests will announced prior to October 8.

REGISTER NOW for the Broadband Breakfast Club Virtual Event on Tuesday, October 15, 2013, at 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT.

Eight States Win Broadband Funds From Agriculture Department

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/States by

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday announced broadband infrastructure projects to give rural residents in eight states access to better economic and educational opportunities.

Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan plus grant agreement, according to the department. A complete list of recent Recovery Act broadband award recipients by state is below:

Alaska
• Copper Valley Wireless: The Cordova, Alaska, Microwave Project; $1,747,796 loan and $1,747,795 grant. The funding will extend middle-mile connectivity from Naked Island to Cordova.

Arizona
• Tohono O’odham Utility Authority: The Fiber Route – Middle Mile Project; $3,565,900 loan and $3,565,900 grant. The funding will enable high-speed DSL services throughout the reservation with Fiber-to-the-Premises and fixed wireless broadband in certain areas.

Illinois
• Norlight Telecommunications: The Rural High-Speed Ethernet Network – Southern Illinois Project; $14,230,375 loan, $8,538,224 grant and $5,692,151 of private investment. The funding will provide more than 1,600 miles of middle-mile fiber-optic network throughout 24 southern counties to deliver high-speed Ethernet connectivity.

Kansas
• South Central Telephone Association: The Lake City & Sun City Rural Fiber-to-the-House (FTTH) Project; $871,200 grant, and $3,550,800 of private investment. The funding will provide FTTH broadband service to all unserved establishments in the telephone exchanges of Lake and Sun City.

• Madison Telephone: The Madison-Lamont Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) Project; $3,519,750 loan, $3,519,750 grant and $763,634 of private investment. The funding will provide FTTP last-mile broadband service to exchange areas, including the Kansas telephone exchanges of Madison and Lamont.

• J.B.N. Telephone Company: The West Cluster Plus Barnes Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) Project; $5,489,250 loan, $5,489,250 grant, and $3,697,619 of private investment. The funding will provide FTTP broadband service throughout seven western exchanges (West Cluster) and the Barnes exchange (Barnes).

Minnesota
• Northeast Service Cooperative: The Northeast Minnesota Middle Mile Project; $21,749,110 loan and $21,749,110 grant. The funding will provide middle-mile, dark fiber, wavelength services to private-sector providers in rural areas of northeast Minnesota.

• Minnesota Valley Television Improvement Corporation: The Minnesota Wireless Expansion Project; $562,776 loan and $562,776 grant, and $281,388 of private investment. The funding will provide a two-way broadband internet network to unserved and underserved areas of west central and south central Minnesota, providing 34 additional wireless (WiMAX) access points.

North Dakota
• Dakota Central Telecom 1 (DCT1): The Dakota Central Telecom l Project; $2,252,250 grant, and $2,499,597 of private investment. The funding will provide Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband services to households, businesses and key community organizations in portions of the Streeter and Gackle exchanges that are currently unserved.

Oklahoma
• Pioneer Long Distance: The Western Oklahoma Wireless Project; $1,819,349 loan and $1,783,322 grant. The funding will provide wireless broadband service to unserved and underserved rural areas in western Oklahoma.

• Panhandle Telephone Cooperative: The Western Oklahoma Broadband Infrastructure Development Project; $3,366,188 loan, $10,098,562 grant, and $23,297,597 of private investment. The funding will provide a broadband infrastructure to rural areas within the western Oklahoma panhandle area.

Texas
• Wes-Tex Telephone Cooperative: The Western Texas Broadband Infrastructure Development Project; $16,891,875 loan, $16,891,875 grant and $28,417,425 of private investment. The funding will provide a broadband infrastructure to increase Internet availability and access speeds in rural areas of western Texas.

First Broadband Stimulus Funds to Middle Mile Projects, Libraries and Rural Last-Mile

in Broadband Stimulus by

WASHINGTON, December 17, 2009 – The broadband stimulus projects identified in a White House report issued Wednesday, and embargoed for release Thursday, include:

  • The North Georgia Network Cooperative, $33.5 million to deploy middle-mile infrastructure to eight counties in northern Georgia and North Carolina
  • The partnership between the for-profit ION in Albany, New York, and the Development Authority of North Country, a public benefit corporation, for a $39.7 middle-mile infrastructure grant in rural upstate New York
  • The Biddleford Internet Corporation, a public-private partnership between the University of Maine and internet service providers, will receive $25.4 million to construct middle-mile infrastructure across rural Maine
  • A public computer center to the Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records that will help 84 libraries enhance computing facilities that serve more than 75,000 users per week and more than 450,000 residents in total
  • The Consolidated Electric Cooperative in North Central Ohio will receive a $2.4 million grant/loan to construct a 166-mile middle-mile network that will also connect 16 electric substations to support its smart grad technology initiative
  • A last-mile grant to Rivada Sea Lion, an Alaska Native Corporation, to provide fourth-generation wireless to 30,00 residents in 53 subsistence-level communities in southwestern Alaska – the first broadband services for these Native Alaskans
  • A last-mile grant to the Bretton Woods Telephone Company in New Hampshire for a fiber-to-the-home project, which will pass 386 households, 19 business and six community anchor institutions, and will allow two-way broadband of up to 20 Megabits per second (Mpbs)

Note: Brian Webster Consulting, a partner of Broadband Census Data (d/b/a BroadbandCensus.com, the sister company of Broadband Census News d/b/a BroadbandBreakfast.com), conducted the data and mapping services used to complete the grant application process for Rivada Sea Lion in Alaska, in conjuction with other consulting services.

For more information about services by Broadband Census Data, see http://broadbandcensus.com/broadband-mapping/, or contact Robert Sepe, Mapping Services, Broadband Census Data, at maps@broadbandcensus.com, or 919-467-5392.

For more information about both the news and data operations of Broadband Census LLC, see http://broadbandbreakfast.com/about/

Broadband Stimulus Rush Begins with $182 Million Dispensed Today in Dawsonville, Ga.; Less Than 3 Percent of Total Funds

in Broadband Stimulus by

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com; and Winter Casey, Reporter, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, December 17, 2009 – The White House announced that $182 million in federal funding for broadband stimulus funding will be dispensed Thursday by Vice President Joe Biden at Impulse Manufacturing in the rural town of Dawsonville, Ga.

The initial grants are the first of a $2 billion disbursement in broadband funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over the next 75 days, the White House said.

The funding, said the White House, is “to bring broadband to communities that currently have little or no access to the technology.”

The projects to be unveiled on Thursday includes 18 program that benefit 17 states.

The $182 million in funding on these 18 projects announced Thursday will be matched by $46 million in private investment.

Of Thursday’s total, $129 million comes from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and $54 million comes from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service.

See our related story on BroadbandBreakfast.com, that summarizes information known about the projects announced on Thursday.

The award include middle-mile projects in Georgia, Ohio, New York and North Carolina, a public computing center award in Arizona, a wireless project in remote Alaska, and two last-mile projects, in Maine and New Hampshire.

The White House is being extremely cautious in its unveiling of broadband stimulus funding. The $182 million in projects to be announced Thursday accounts for only 9 percent of the $2 billion that will be dispensed by the end of February.

In turn, that $2 billion represents only 27 percent of the $7.2 billion in federal funding allocated for broadband stimulus grants.

If the grants to announced by the end of February 2010 are the sum total of first round funding awards, that would leave nearly three-quarters of the remaining broadband funds to be announced in the second, or final, round of funding.

Put another way, Thursday’s announcements constitute merely 2.5 percent of all federal funds allocated for core broadband investments under the fiscal stimulus legislation, passed in February 2009.

In a Wednesday briefing embargod until Thursday, NTIA Chief Lawrence Strickling said that the government is not announcing more funding awards because they are carefully selecting the projects.

The first awards were initially planned to be announced in November – and completed by the end of December. The announcement was delayed. The Administration now plans to release grant recipient names on a rolling basis starting Thursday.

In a report issued by the National Economic Council said that “broadband investments will create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy in the near term.”

The NEC Broadband Report, entitled “Recovery Act Investments in Broadband: Leveraging Federal Dollars to Create Jobs and Connect America,” continues: “By providing broadband-enabled opportunities to previously underserved communities, these investments will also lay the foundation for long-term regional economic development.”

The report summarizes three major categories of broadband investment: middle-mile, community anchor institutions and last-mile connections “to rural America.”

The report downplays one key segment of broadband expenditures – “sustainable broadband” – targeted by the Recovery Act.

In the report, “middle mile” investments are seen as critical. “Investments in the ‘middle mile’ extend the reach of the Internet into communities that would otherwise lack adequate access to broadband and its many opportunities. Moreover, Recovery Act middle-mile projects are specifically designed to improve connections to community institutions such as schools, hospitals, and libraries in order to enhance the quality of their critical services and reach large numbers of people.”

“By focusing on these institutions,” the report continues, “federal investment will connect more workers to broadband at their jobs, empower more children with digital skills through schools and libraries, and lead to increased broadband adoption in homes and businesses.”

The report also analogies current federal investments in broadband infrastructure to the government’s traditional investments in the Internet’s backbone.

The report quotes President Obama as saying, on September 21, 2009, that “one key to strengthening education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in communities… is to harness the full power of the Internet, and that means faster and more widely available broadband.”

Report Using Census Block Data Finds Broadband Adoption Rate of 72.9 Percent

in Broadband Data/Expert Opinion by

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2009 – A new report using an innovative approach to broadband data finds that the percentage of households in the United States that have adopted high-speed internet services is 72.9 percent.

The report was generated by comparing the Census blocks in which broadband is available with the number of subscribers that carriers report to the Federal Communications Commission.

By linking the number of subscribers in a particular state (from FCC data) to a data-set of Census block-by-Census block tabulations of broadband availability, consultant Brian Webster believes that he is able to peg the nation-wide broadband adoption rate for homes passed at 72.9 percent.

That number is about 10 percentage points higher than what other studies have found. That’s not surprising – precisely because he is attempting to count adoption of homes passed, and not of the population as a whole.

“That’s a difference that could have a significant impact on the decisions made to deploy broadband in the remaining un-served markets,” says Webster.

One other facet to the data used in the report: the FCC data used in the report also includes mobile broadband counts, in addition to wireline broadband counts.  Because a home could have two or more broadband connections, the 72.9 percent number counts those homes twice.

Webster and his company are partners with Broadband Census Data LLC, which operates as BroadbandCensus.com. (Our news reporting on BroadbandBreakfast.com, and our popular Broadband Breakfast Club, are run by our sister company Broadband Census News LLC.)

BroadbandCensus.com worked closely with Brian Webster to produce what we believe is the first public and transparent broadband map, of Columbia, South Carolina, and Richland County.

That map, available on BroadbandCensusMaps.com, demonstrates, on a Census block-by-Census block basis, which blocks have broadband available, what technologies (e.g. cable, digital subscriber line) are offered, the speeds at which internet access is promised, and the names of the actual carriers that offer it.

Brian’s latest report doesn’t get into the speed, pricing, technology or carriers that offer broadband. Keep reading, however, to find out how BroadbandCensus.com, working with Brian Webster, can provide that for you.

Instead, the report links together three key sources of data:

  • Data that is publicly released by the FCC as part of its Form 477 Report. (Most of the data — including crucial information about the names of broadband providers — is not publicly released.)
  • Census Bureau data about population counts.
  • Gadberry Group’s Broadband Served Indicator Data. (The Gadberry Group is a location-based services company.)

Look at this image, from the report, of the Census blocks in Arizona.


Arizona

The brown represents Census blocks in which broadband is available. As you can see, the brown Census blocks are clustered around the major metropolitan areas, and other cities.

The yellow represents Census blocks in which there is no reported broadband — and in which there are households.

The green represents Census blocks in which there are no homes present at all.

According to the latest Form 477 data from the FCC, there are 1,575,252 residential broadband lines in the state of Arizona. This data is provided by the carriers.

According to the Census Bureau, there are 2, 722,725 homes in the state of Arizona.

Dividing the first number by the second generates 57.86 percent — or the “take rate” for the state, considered as a whole. In other words, for every 100 households, 58 take broadband.

But what about the “take rate” for only those homes that have broadband available to them?

Think of this number as an adoption rate for broadband services, where and when they are available.

By linking the public FCC database (and Census Bureau numbers) to the data-set from the Gadberry Group, Brian has been able to calculate this adoption rate of homes passed on a state-wide basis.

In other words, he can throw out all those Census blocks where there is either no broadband (the yellow) or no households (the green). Just totaling up the number of households in the brown Census blocks — whether or not the individuals household subscribe to broadband — yields 2,096,738 households.

Then, dividing the total number of residential lines by this reduced number of homes (in Census blocks in which broadband is available) yields a adoption rate of 75.13 percent. That’s a 17 percentage point difference from the raw “take rate” one would get by looking only at the FCC’s public Form 477 number.

There’s a lot of fascinating stuff here — and it’s really only scratching the surface of what is possible by building a public and transparent broadband database.

For starters, this analysis has been done only on a state-by-state basis.

BroadbandCensus.com has been urging the FCC to disclose not merely statewide numbers — but also those numbers on a county level, a ZIP code level, a Census tract level, a Census block group level, and a Census block level.

Developments may be moving in that direction. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration says that – as statewide broadband data becomes available – it is committed to releasing “the names of the providers at the address/Census block/street segment level (whichever level they collect at).”

They’d get a great head-start on that effort by persuading the FCC to release the entire Form 477 database. This is something that we at BroadbandCensus.com have been urging for more than three years.

Fortunately, states, cities, counties, carriers and other broadband stimulus applicants don’t need to wait for the FCC and the NTIA to begin building a map and data-set of Broadband Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition.

At BroadbandCensus.com, we call this the Broadband SPARC, and believe that a national broadband mashup is a key ingredient of a National Broadband Plan.

BroadbandCensus.com has built such a map in Columbia, South Carolina. We are available, on a very short turn-around, to map out the speeds, prices, availability, technologies and providers within individual states, counties and other geographic units.

If you’d like more information about the services that BroadbandCensus.com offers, please visit our web site, BroadbandCensus.com, e-mail us at data@broadbandcensus.com, or call us at 202-580-8196.

Editor’s Note: At about 11:30 a.m. ET, this posting was clarified to explain two reasons why Brian Webster’s adoption rate for broadband homes passed, at 72.9 percent, is higher than other studies of broadband adoption in the United States. They are: (1) Brian is only calculating broadband adoption of homes passed (or homes in Census blocks passed), and not broadband adoption as a percent of population; and (2) the FCC data used in the report also includes mobile broadband counts, in addition to wireline broadband counts.  Because a home could have two or more broadband connections, the 72.9 percent number counts those homes twice.

Alabama, Arizona and Missouri Governments Offer Picks for Broadband Dollars

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA/Premium Content by

October 16, 2009 – The states of Alabama, Arizona and Missouri released their lists of recommendations for broadband stimulus grants to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Friday, October 16.

In Alabama, a five-page recommendation came from the Alabama Broadband Initiative, which urged that the federal government fund 41 projects. In their letter, the commission said that its recommendation meant that its review committee deemed that “ (1) the project will meet a broadband infrastructure need within the State; (2) the project will increase the use of broadband technology within the State to better serve our citizenry; and/or (3) the project will provide public access to computers within underserved areas of the State.” The initiative also said that “infrastructure projects within the State are our number one priority.”

In Arizona, the three-page recommendation came from the State of Arizona Government Information Technology Agency, and it recommended 21 projects. Without any commentary, the recommendation rated projects within the middle mile, last mile, public computing centers and sustainable adoption categories as either “exceptional,” “outstanding,” or “deserving of funding consideration.”

In Missouri, a 10-page letter from Gov. Jeremiah W. Nixon articulated a detailed framework for bringing more comprehensive broadband to the state. The state put forward 16 projects in its recommendations.

In the portions of this story included below as premium content, BroadbandCensus.com provides links to uploaded copies of the letters of the Alabama Broadband Initiative, Gov. Jeremiah W. Nixon of Missouri, and of the State of Arizona Government Information Technology Agency, to the NTIA. The Missouri letter is also available on the MoBroadbandNow wiki.

Content available for Paid and Trial Subscribers of BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report. Click here to subscribe.

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Alabama

The letter to NTIA from the Alabama Broadband Initiative: btop-recommendations-from-state-of-alabama

Arizona

The letter to NTIA from the Arizona Government Information Agency: arizona

Missouri

The letter to NTIA from Gov. Jeremiah W. Nixon of Missouri: missouri_recommendations_btop_round_1

“The recommendations we offer today in the Middle Mile and Last Mile categories are the result of a unique public-private partnership process,” said Gov. Nixon in his letter. “The most significant hurdle to a truly transformational – not merely incremental – expansion of broadband access throughout rural Missouri is the absence of a state-of-the-art, and truly ‘open access,’ Middle Mile infrastructure.”

“The ‘open access’ infrastructure Last Mile providers need – but lack in much of rural Missouri today – means [of] predictable, dependable access” to broadband, he continued.

Together with Sho-Me Technologies, LLC, the state of Missouri has forged a partnership to provide such “open access” infrastructure, including the deployment of 2,500 miles of new fiber-optic backbone, 200 new towers, and the creation of a fully “open access” infrastructure at the wholesale and retail levels.

Among the benefits of the partnership with Sho-Me Technologies, the state continued:

  • Access to approximately 300 rural communities along the fiber path, as well as reach into additional tower locations in areas surrounding the communities.
  • Adds 50+ rural county seats to a fiber-connected network.
  • Open access fiber and towers.
  • Highly reliable designs (network rings)
  • Drop-off points for additional towns and towers along or near the fiber path.
  • High capacity fiber and bandwidth supply options for Last Mile providers (critical for both wired and wireless providers as bandwidth to the end-user increases).
  • Puts fiber into areas where no fiber exists or fiber access is limited and not open-access.
  • Smartgrid enabler for Missouri rural electric cooperatives.
  • Provides the key portions of a statewide “open access” infrastructure that will enable low-cost access throughout rural Missouri for libraries and similar public service institutions; K-12 school districts and higher education institutions; healthcare providers and patients seeking remote healthcare services; public safety and intelligent transportation benefits.
  • Based on expected use over the next seven to ten years, the reduced costs to the State for the public service benefits made available through this proposal will produce savings equal to between 200 percent and 300 percent of the State’s initial matching funds investment.

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.[/private_Premium Content][/private_Free Trial]

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In Arizona, Urging Broadband Stimulus Spending For the Benefit of All

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 3, Session 1

March 19, 2009 – Arizonans and native Americans at a public forum in Flagstaff, Ariz., urged a broadband buildout that puts connectivity of disadvantaged groups at the heart of the federal stimulus spending.

The discussion was the first of three panels on Wednesday’s field hearing of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service.

On Thursday, the fourth of six days of NTIA/RUS public hearings on how to spend $7.2 billion in the federal broadband stimulus, heads back to Washington. The forums will continue in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.

As with Tuesday’s field hearing in Las Vegas, the digital divide between America’s wealthy bicoastal techorati was contrasted with the wide open, and often offline, regions of the American west.

The first of three panel discussions during the joint meeting of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service Wednesday focused on the state of “vulnerable populations” within the United States, the need to drive demand for broadband, and the role of strategic institutions.

Sara Pressler, mayor of Flagstaff, said the unserved and underserved peoples of Arizona still need broadband for health, education and other pressing needs.

“Serving and protecting vulnerable populations is important. Rural and tribal communities without either broadband or electric power need to benefit, too,” she said.

She continued: “Rural communities have great potential because we know what it means to work with limited resources and to get things done.”

Broadband development, she said, would be vital not just for neglected tribes and lands but wider America’s “national health and security.”

As with renewable energy, broadband could go a long way in transforming the lives of individuals in congressional districts that still do not have power.

Fred Estrella, chief information officer at the Northern Arizona University, said broadband technology would help rural and tribal communities “access educational resources and opportunities.”

“Tribal and rural communities in unserved and under-served areas could benefit from our university’s online offerings and utilize the opportunity to educate themselves and their children in ways that are not available today,” he said.

Maureen Jackson, information technology director with Coconino County, Ariz., said there exist 18,000 miles of land in the state that need broadband technology, particularly for “emergency responders.”

“We still don’t have infrastructure to meet the needs of emergency responders,” she said, adding that such infrastructure would need to be located both centrally as well as within surrounding communities.

Loris Taylor, executive director of Native Public Media, said broadband will be needed for the inclusion of neglected tribes and rural areas into the media economy, and other services.

“We need broadband so as to stream content, and foster political and electoral participation,” she said, before asking: “Whose democracy is it when so many voices are left out?”

Indian tribes, she said, have both been unserved and underserved, even as she said their socio-economic and political potential would be unlocked by broadband to their benefit.

Internet education and other services from broadband would be a boon, she said, but warned that such must be accompanied by neutrality of source and destination.

Gary Uhles, assistant general manager, San Carlos Apache Telecommunication Utility, said his company wants to reach Arizona’s outlying communities.

“We want to expand beyond boundaries of known tribal reservations,” he said.

Carroll Onsae, general manager of Hopi Telecommunications, said there will be need to replace copper wires with fiber optic wires to expand the speed and capabilities of broadband.

She said the new infrastructure will require massive capitalization, and that with increased knowledge of technology on the part of the population there would be increased demand for related services.

“Fiber optics is obviously the way to go; no doubt it would cost everyone more,” he said.

Rosalyn Boxer, director of workforce policy with Arizona’s Department of Commerce Economic Development, argued that “without broadband, businesses will lose their market share.”

“Businesses in rural areas need to know how broadband can drive demand, that we can telecommute, and so much more,” she said, adding that rural and immigrant communities would need greater confidence in using the new technology.

During the public comment session, the panelists argued that tribal and rural areas need to “grow their own broadband.” Many also decried what they considered the practice of “red-lining,” or limiting the build-out of telecommunications infrastructures to wealthier areas.

A member of the audience expressed worry that public libraries, in most instances the only reliable source of internet access, are under the threat of increased cuts in their budgets.

Yet another audience member said that scarce resources, the definition of “unserved” and “under-served,” preferential treatment towards current and former borrowers could negatively impact the NTIA/RUS application process.

Others said draft guidelines are needed for writing broadband grant application proposals, and that citizens must agree on priorities so to blunt the influence of “special interests.”

Taylor counseled that traditional areas of disagreement ought not be allowed to interfere with making progress on broadband deployment. Concepts and passions should triumph over divisive territorial agendas, she said.

States Seek Best Strategies on Obtaining Broadband Stimulus Funds Close-to-Home

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2009 – As the Obama administration on Monday begins poring over the nitty-gritty details about how they will be spending $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds, individual states are grappling to find their own best strategies to tap the funds.

At the public meeting on March 10, officials at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration made clear that the broadband grants – unlike the past several decades’ trend toward “block grants” – will not be channeled through states.

Rather, with the exception that at least one grant be awarded within each state, the NTIA’s broadband grants will up for grabs by the most qualified applicant.

But that hasn’t discouraged representatives from states and state groups.

In fact, many are quite pleased with the way the broadband stimulus program is taking shape, and are eager to have their voice heard in the next phase of the broadband stimulus process.

Among their grounds for optimism:

  • States and their political subdivisions are themselves eligible to receive grants through the various broadband programs of the NTIA and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service.
  • States have the on-the-ground knowledge about particular communications needs that positions them to play the kind of coordinative and facilitative role that will be necessarily in an expedited process of broadband expenditures.
  • States’ engagement with economic development officials allows them to work collaboratively with both public- and private-sector partners.
  • States have been among the principal players in the attempts to map out broadband deployment.
  • States have filled what many regard as a leadership void in the field of broadband policy over the past several years.

Almost immediately following the March 10 public meeting, for example, broadband officials in the state of Illinois held in a conference call to consider statewide strategies to tap into federal dollars.

Prior to assuming the governorship, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn had assumed the cause of broadband, saying that “We have to be the modern-day, 21st century Johnny Appleseeds, planting good technology projects all over the state.” He did so as part of the state’s Broadband Deployment Council.

Massachusetts, another state leading the broadband drive, announced that it, too, would hold a conference call on Thursday, March 19th, from Noon to 1:00 p.m., to discuss broadband stimulus in Massachusetts.

The conference call is being organized by the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative, a non-profit with $40 million in state funds seeking to ensure universal broadband within the state.

That next phase of the broadband stimulus debate begins on March 16 with a six-day series of public meetings of the NTIA and RUS. Meetings on March 16, March 19, March 23 and March 24 will be in Washington. The meeting on March 17 will be in Las Vegas, and March 18 will be in Flagstaff, Ariz.

These state actors believe that states are poised to play an important and influential role in the process.
“The states bring a good deal to the table” when it comes to broadband policy, said Indiana Utility Regulatory Commissioner Larry Landis. “This is going to be a huge undertaking for NTIA, and the states can help them get up to speed relatively quickly.”

Landis, co-chair of a joint board proposing broadband actions by both state regulators and the Federal Communications Commission of the NARUC, points to the way that states stepped in over the past several years to fill a perceived void in federal policy-making with respect to broadband. At least 39 states have taken some steps toward creating statewide broadband policies and better access, he said.

In addition to Massachusetts and Illinois, California conducted a detailed census of broadband availability and speeds, which it released in January 2008. Over the past 18 months, Virginia directed money from a tobacco lawsuit settlement to provide the best-quality broadband possible to its rural industrial parks. And the Minnesota legislature, in passing its broadband legislation last summer, toyed with the notion of requiring broadband on the order of 1 Gigabit per second, or more than three orders of magnitude higher than what currently passes for “broadband” under the FCC’s definition.

BroadbandCensus.com has been profiling the state of broadband, and of broadband, within each state at http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/2008/09/broadband-census-in-the-states/.

Several state-level officials – including D.C. Public Service Commission Chairman Betty Ann Kane, New York State Public Service Commissioner Maureen Harrison, and National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners President Frederick Butler – will be featured during the NTIA/RUS events.

Chairman Kane, for example, is a featured speaker at Monday’s first panel, a panel of private sector eligibility. Kane has been working with the NARUC/FCC joint board on broadband, and has been focusing on creating a web site in which the efforts of the states may be showcased and coordinated. Butler and Harrison are scheduled for subsequent meetings.

Kane is also a confirmed panelist at BroadbandCensus.com’s Broadband Breakfast Club event on Tuesday, April 14, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Registration for the event is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

In the lead-up to Congress’ passage of the federal stimulus legislation on February 13, states were actively lobbying on the issue. “States have intimate knowledge of the communications environment, geography, and demographics within their boundaries,” said Butler, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions.

Further, said Butler, “states can assure efficient utilization and targeting of stimulus monies and states have every incentive to make certain the money is not wasted.” Of particular concern to Butler was that “early adopter states should not be penalized,” according to a NARUC policy statement.

In other words, a state like Massachusetts shouldn’t become ineligible to recoup broadband funds spent out of its own treasury prior to the enactment of broadband stimulus legislation.

Massachusetts and a group of six other states made similar points in their own position paper, “Broadband Investment for Economic Recovery: Perspectives of an Ad-Hoc Group of State Broadband Entities,” (PDF) submitted to the administration and to Congress on February 9.

The states, including Arizona, Georgia, Maine, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina, called themselves “a small sample of the many states that are well positioned to make quick use of federal monies to partner in the effort to build out much needed broadband infrastructure.”

They argued for the full $7 billion in funding, for ensuring that the bulk of funding was made available through grants and not through loans, and that in-kind contributions by states be allowed to meet the 20 percent matching requirement called for the stimulus law.

Editor’s Note

4/2 – The preceeding story has corrected to the name of the President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. It is Frederick Butler.

Beset by Large Rural Areas, Arizona Aims to Blend Broadband Data Sources

in States by

Broadband Census Arizona

By Drew Bennett, Special Correspondent, BroadbandCensus.com; and William G. Korver, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

This is the 16th of a series of articles surveying the state of broadband, and broadband data, within each of the United States and its territories.

October 15 – “Reliable, affordable access to high-capacity telecommunications infrastructure has become as essential as water, sewer, transportation and electricity service in creating healthy and successful communities in the 21st century.”

So begins a 2007 report by the Arizona Department of Commerce, the “Arizona Broadband Initiative Framework.”

The report concludes: “the opportunity for states to use ubiquitous broadband deployment as a competitive differentiator is quickly passing.” Further, “the realization of broadband connectivity in parts of rural Arizona will not be accomplished by relying on normal market forces alone.” In sum, the report urges government officials and others to expand and enhance broadband networks in the southwestern state.

Arizona is now setting off on a path that a handful of other U.S. states are already on. Officials in the Grand Canyon State sought to learn what other states have done to expand broadband services beyond those provided by market forces.

The Arizona Telecommunications and Information Council (ATIC) is tasked with coordinating state, as well as public/private projects, to encourage wide-scale deployment and availability of broadband services.

Initiatives include telemedicine projects, grants seeking federal funds to improve broadband and employment in rural areas, improved digital infrastructure in Native American tribal lands, and efforts to establish a broadband authority that could focus state funds on filling existing gaps in broadband access.

One of the key infrastructure gaps that the state is seeking to fill arises in smaller, underserved communities in proximity to “middle-mile” fiber lines that connect larger cities.

The Arizona Broadband Connect Initiative, a project being developed by the Government Information Technology Agency (GITA) in cooperation with the state Department of Commerce, seeks to develop “off-ramps” for these communities that would be owned by the towns and managed by carriers seeking to deliver the last mile of access.

Members of ATIC estimate that 30 communities could benefit from such an approach. In order to pursue such an initiative, better and more complete information about the existing infrastructure is needed.

“We don’t think it’s enough just to know where the users are,” ATIC members have commented. “It will also be useful to policy makers to know where the middle-mile is, where the towers are, and where the rights of way are.”

GITA has undertaken a study of best practices in broadband data gathering and infrastructure mapping that looks both outward – to comparable efforts in other states –and inward: to diverse state agencies that could contribute to a full-scale broadband mapping project in Arizona.

For example, the report compared the broadband mapping approaches of Colorado, which established a statewide public service network; the forging of a “strong” executive through the establishment of a broadband authority in the Vermont Telecommunications Authority; and the creation of a “public-private partnership,” such as the approaches taken by the states of North Carolina (through its e-NC Authority) and Kentucky, through its funding of Connected Nation, Inc.

Through early results from the assessment study and a survey of officials in other states, GITA and members of ATIC have identified a number of sources that need to be part of any comprehensive data-gathering mission, including proprietary data that is commercially available for purchase, unique state resources, federal data, carrier-contributed information, and survey data focused on Arizona’s unique , geography and market.

ATIC members refer to this diversified strategy on broadband data gathering as the “blended approach” and believe that there is a great deal of information already at states’ fingertips that can contribute significantly to a more accurate picture of existing broadband infrastructure.

ATIC understands that resource constraints and restrictions on the distribution of information that is deemed proprietary or competitively-sensitive data will be just a few of the obstacles blocking the path toward accurate broadband data acquisition and information-sharing. Still,  they aim to develop creative solutions to these problems.

“Each and every data source is imperfect in its own wonderful and at times maddening ways,” says Mark Goldstein, an ATIC member and the project manager of GITA’s broadband assessment study group. “But my belief is that in the aggregate you can develop meaningful information.”

Mark also believes that “crowdsourcing” may be an important factor in this effort – “letting the public fact-check the data,” as he describes it, could help inform better policy that in turn delivers better broadband to the public.

ATIC sources summed up what would be required of the state: “in Arizona, the leadership and the will are needed…identifying key policies that have the backing of the legislature are major factors.”

Broadband Census in the States:

Broadband Census Resources:

Broadband Census State-by-State Articles on Broadband Deployment and Data

in Press Releases by

Broadband Census in the States

By Reporters and Correspondents for BroadbandCensus.com

Editor’s Note: Below is the complete list of articles in the “Broadband Census in the States” series on BroadbandCensus.com.

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