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August

Study: Broadband Gives Rural Regions Economic Boost

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From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2009 – The role of rural communities continues to play a major part in the debate over the state of the nation’s broad¬band with a new study finding that high-speed Internet access helps grow their economic base.

“Broadband Internet’s Value for Rural America,” a report http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err78 put together by economists at the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service, compared counties that had broadband access by 2000 with similar regions that had little or no high-speed access. The authors found that rural communities with greater broadband Internet access had greater economic growth than areas with less access.

Employment growth was higher and non-farm private earnings were greater in counties that had broadband access for a longer period of time.

The study found that by 2007 most households (82 percent) with in-home Internet access had a broadband connection. There was a distinct difference between urban and rural broadband use. Seventy percent of rural households with Internet access at home had a connection compared to 84 percent of urban households at the time.

Broadband helped elevate the rural areas by providing online course and continuing education offerings as well as telemedicine and telehealth. The report also found that broadband allows rural areas to compete for low-and high-end service jobs, from call centers to software development. Additionally, the authors found that the farm sector is increasingly comprised of farm businesses that buy inputs and make sales online.

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FCC Tweets, Free Press Class Big Firms Twits

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From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2009 – The Federal Communica¬tions Commission is making good on its efforts to be transparent and timely – this time in 140 characters or less. The agency has joined the thousands of Twitterers by launching its tweets at http://www.twitter.com/fccdotgov. The FCC’s tweets include news about the agency and progress reports on the national broadband plan.

It has also launched a new blog last week called Blogband — http://blog.broadband.gov – kudos to you if you can say that five times fast. The agency said it will chronicle the development of the plan and as with most blogs, allows reader comment.

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[private_Premium Content][private_Free Trial][private_free-trial]“To foster public dialogue about the national broadband plan, we’re tapping the power of the Internet to launch a new FCC blog,” agency Chairman Julius Gena¬chowski wrote in the first post. “Blogband will keep people up-to-date about the work the FCC is doing and the progress we’re making. But we want it to be a two-way conversation. The feedback, ideas, and discussions generated on this blog will be critical in developing the best possible national broadband plan.”

The agency isn’t the only one reaching out with new tools. Free Press in the same week launched an online tool http://www.freepress.net/astroturf that it says will “help ex¬pose phony grassroots groups hired by big phone and cable companies to advance their political agenda.”

The tool features “the Money Trail,” which tabulates lobbying spending by phone and cable firms. It also singles out what is says are the deceptive activities of groups such as FreedomWorks, Americans for Pros¬perity, NetCompetition and the Heartland Institute.

Among the Free Press findings: Comcast spent more than $45 million on campaigns and lobbying. The group points out that this same amount could have provided one year of broadband service to 150,000 households;

Qwest spent $10 million on lobbying that could have provided broadband to 5,500 libraries for one year; and Time Warner Cable spent $24 million on lobby¬ing. This same amount could have subsidized 100,000 low-income households for one year of broadband service.

“The fake grassroots groups are spending major resources to deceive the public and promote agendas of the corporations that sign their paychecks,” said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. “We need transparency, accountability and honest debate. The crucial policy decisions being made right now about the future of the Internet must be based on indepen¬dent research, reliable data and facts.”[/private_Premium Content][/private_Free Trial][/private_free-trial]

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NTIA Sends Second BTOP Report to Congress

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From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2009 – The National Telecommunications Information Administration gives a look back and a look ahead with a new report to Congress it released the week before last. The unit of the Commerce Department submitted its second annual report on its $4.7 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

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[private_Premium Content][private_Free Trial]This quarterly report, which builds upon the BTOP information submit¬ted to Congress http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broad¬bandgrants/BTOPQuarterlyReport_090518.pdf in May, focuses on steps the agency has taken to advance the directives established by Congress in the Recovery Act, including the release of the first Notice of Funds Availability (NoFA), public outreach, prepara¬tions to accept and evaluate applications and steps to improve agency readiness.

The report notes that up to $1.6 billion will be avail¬able in the first grant round, which as previously announced, is divided into three project categories: broadband through the last or middle mile, projects to expand computer center capacity and funding for innovative projects that promote broadband.

NTIA says in the report to lawmakers that it anticipates subsequent rounds of BTOP funding before all awards are obligated by Sept. 30, 2010. The current goal is to issue a second NOFA before the end of 2009 and a third in the spring of 2010, each preceded by a request for public comment on any suggested modifications to future NOFAs.

“This approach allows NTIA to quickly award funds to high-quality ‘shovel ready’ projects, while also provid¬ing time for other applicants to prepare their proposals and for NTIA to adjust its program as appropriate based upon lessons learned from the earlier rounds,” reads the report.

It discloses that it is authorized to spend up to $141 million for administrative expenses through Sept. 30, 2010 and has contracted with Booz Allen Hamilton for program development and administrative services.

“The contractor will play an important role in assist¬ing NTIA staff in awarding Recovery Act funds in the most effective, efficient, equitable and accountable manner possible,” reads the report. “BAH will assist NTIA with a number of important tasks and responsibilities, including program administration, application processing, communications and out¬reach, grants administration and post-award monitoring, technical assistance, and management support. All grant award decisions shall be made exclu¬sively by NTIA.”

The report also provides a good cheat sheet for anyone seeking a compilation of changes in initial policy, and it pro¬vides a calendar of past and tentative projected BTOP milestones.

It outlines several modifications that the agency has made over the last few months. For example, on June 19, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke decided that the application of the Buy American provision in the Recovery Act would not apply to broadband and related equipment.

The NTIA also says it has taken steps to ensure that BTOP complies with all relevant environmental and historic preservation requirements. [/private_Premium Content][/private_Free Trial]

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Week Ahead: A New Sheriff in Town

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From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2009 – The broadband policy center of gravity is beginning to shift from northwest to the southwest – or at least from NW Washington, where the Commerce Department and its National Telecommunications and Information Administration is based, to SW Washington, at the Federal Communications Commission.

In the two months since Julius Genachowski was confirmed as chairman of the agency, he’s been pushing more and more for a wholescale “reinvention” of the way that the telecommunications referee does business. He’s brought on board many of the brightest stars in the broadband policy arena and appears to have given them the authority to run the national broadband policy initiative.

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[private_Premium Content][private_Free Trial]Genachowski has also put forward a fresh new web site, http://broadband.gov , which has the look and feel of a consumer-friendly internet portal, complete with blogs and now a Twitter feed (see page 5). Plus, he’s put another crew onto “FCC Agency Reform,” which prom¬ises another agency web site with features designed to help the average citizen monitor ex parte insider meet¬ings that take place at the agency.

More pointedly, Genachowski is taking action, early in the administration, on a topic that may herald far-ranging changes in the field of Net neutrality – at least insofar as it relates to wireless devices. He’s doing this with four words: innovation, investment, competi¬tion and consumers. He said them over and over again at the agency’s monthly meeting on Thursday.

Last week the agency issued three inquiries into various aspects of the wireless marketplace. One deals with innovation and investment; another with competition; and the third with consumer disclosure. And although the notices are phased in general terms, it’s unmistakable that Genachowski is putting the wireless industry on notice: he’s pushing for a wireless corollary to the Carterphone decision.

A Carterphone was a device that connected a land-line phone to a mobile radio. In 1968, the FCC held that – in spite of protestations by AT&T – that “any lawful de¬vice” that did not harm the telephone network could be connected to it. And that principle, in turn, has become one of the hallmarks of the FCC’s policy statement on “Net neutrality,” or the principle that consumer should have the freedom to do precisely that.

The question arises: what if a consumer wants to connect an Apple iPhone to another carrier’s network, and not that of AT&T’s? AT&T current offers the device exclusively to its customers. Many high-tech compa¬nies, including Skype, have been pushing for a wireless analog to the Carterphone ruling.

Last year, the FCC under Kevin Martin rejected a petition by Skype to do just that.

The 1968 decision is nowhere mentioned in the three notices. But in his opening statement, Genachows¬ki deftly did precisely that. Even more, he linked his support for Carterphone to a sympathetic dentist and innovator, Dr. James Marsters, who passed away on July 28. http://www.ntid.rit.edu/media/full_text.php?article_id=963

Marsters, according to Genachowski, was pivotal in the invention of the text telephone, which is often called a teletype, or TTY device. The device enables the deaf to communicate by telephone.

“It was truly a transformational technical achievement,” Genachowski said. “The TTY become, following the landmark Carterphone decision, perhaps the earliest example of the power of innovation to unleash the genius of the inventor at the edge of the network.”

Just as with the actual Carterphone, “Marster’s inven¬tion was initially resisted, rather than embraced, by the phone companies,” Genachowski said.

“It is in the spirit of that great man” that the agency focuses on innovation and investment, competition and consumers. “These values lie at the core of the FCC’s mission.” [/private_Premium Content][/private_Free Trial]

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Week in Review: Application Roundup

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From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2009 – Although the NTIA and RUS are expected to release the names of the applicants for broadband stimulus funding later this week, the names of many of the applicants are emerging through press releases and through reporting by a wide variety of organizations.

States playing active roles in the federal broadband stimulus are emerging as key aggregators of grant applications, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Mexico. Each of these states is responsible for bundling more than $100 million in applicants by governmental, private or quasi-public entities within their jurisdictions.

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[private_Premium Content][private_Free Trial]Among the major private sector players eying federal stimulus funds include KeyOn, a wireless broadband providers in Omaha, Neb., going for more $150 mil¬lion in funding to expand its WiMax network http://gigaom.com/2009/08/19/wireless-cos-ask-for-169-6m-in-stimulus-bucks-wheres-wire¬line/; Leap Wireless, which operates the Cricket brand of cell phone service, which is seeking $8.6 million; Yonder Media, with a rural WiMax plan, and possibly also Level 3. http://telephonyonline.com/independent/news/level3-broad¬band-stimulus-funding-0817/ SkyTerra’s application for funds is under the Sustainable Adoption Program, and it includes a letter of support from Motorola. http://www.skyterra.com/me¬dia/press-releases-view.cfm?id=216&yr=2009

Illinois is shepherding one of the most substantial group of applicant packages through the process. As with other states, it is pledging large sums of money to meet the 20 percent matching funds requirement called for the regulations implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Last week, the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn announced funding commitments of $40 million, supporting federal applications more than 10 times that large, or for $415 million. The complete list is avail¬able at http://broadband.illinois.gov/page/State-Funding-Commitment-List.aspx .

The City of Chicago, for example, is seeking $100 million to create a “smart Chicago;” Illinois’s matching commit¬ment is $10 million, and the project boasts an additional match of $14.8 million. Among the other substantial applications within Illinois are the City of Rockford, for $63 million (matched by $5 million from the state); Clearwave Communications, a company in Southern Illinois, for $50 million (with a $5 million state match); Cook and Will Counties, which are seeking $51 million; and the University of Illinois Campus Information Technologies and Information Services, which is seeking $28 million (with a $3.5 million state match).

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson – President Obama’s first pick to be Secretary of Commerce, but who with¬drew his name – announced that his state’s Office of Recovery and Reinvestment coordinated an effort to obtain $180 million in broadband funds. “A faster, expanded broadband network that reaches across our state is vital to our future, which is why I made securing funds for broadband improvements in New Mexico a top priority for our stimulus team,” Richardson said. http://www.governor.state.nm.us/press/2009/august/082109_01.pdf Among the applicants are the New Mexico Department of Information Technology, Baca Valley Telephone, Eastern New Mexico Rural Telephone Cooperative, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and Commnet, Sa¬cred Wind, US Cable and Western Telephone.

Pennsylvania’s $108 million bid includes $50 million toward a state Department of Education connectivity plan; $29 million by the state’s Office of Administra¬tion toward an underserved area in northern Pennsyl¬vania, $13 million for broadband trading the Education Department, and $8 million toward the Department of Community and Economic Development to “help com¬munities, businesses, first-responders and institutions effectively use broadband.” http:// www.recovery.pa.gov

Maryland state officials, working with several municipalities, seeks to finalize a $100 million joint application, One Maryland, to expand existing fiber to schools, libraries and other public buildings. The coalition includes the counties of Baltimore, Anne Arun¬del, Harford, Carroll, Prince George’s, Montgomery and Frederick – plus Baltimore City and Annapolis. http://www.govtech.com/gt/articles/712483

And in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute applied for $105 million in federal funding: $100 million to support an infrastructure development in western Massachusetts, coupled with $20 million in state money; plus $5 million to support its broadband mapping initiative. OpenCape on Cape Cod is seek¬ing $40 million in federal funds, and the City of Boston seeks $15 million. [/private_Premium Content][/private_Free Trial]

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BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report August 24th & 31st 2009

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WASHINGTON, August 31, 2009 – Now comes the tough part. Nearly 2,200 applications poured into the NTIA and the RUS, the agencies said last week. They sought $27.6 billion in funding – seven times more than is available this round. Applicant names are expected to be released this week.

Among the stories in this edition:

Subscribers may click below to download the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report for August 24 & 31, 2009.

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BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report August 17th 2009

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WASHINGTON, August 17, 2009 – What’s that big sound? The applause from applicants eyeing the billions in broadband money in response to the multi-day deadline extension. Meanwhile, public interest groups rallied their troops to ask the FCC for better mapping data practices and to urge the agency for broader representation at their workshops.

Subscribers may click below to download the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report for August 17, 2009.

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Among the stories in this edition:

  • The Week in Review: Committed as a Corpse
  • The Week Ahead: Will Time Equal Money?

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BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report August 10th 2009

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WASHINGTON, August 10, 2009 – All eyes are on the looming deadline this week for broadband application grants, but some are pushing for more time. They say the process is too overwhelming. Meanwhile, the FCC kicked off its workshops and more as it feverishly gathers data for its national broadband plan.

Subscribers may click below to download the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report for August 10, 2009.

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Among the stories in this edition:

  • The Week in Review: He Who Holds the Gold
  • The Week Ahead: A Less Idle Bucolic

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BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report August 3rd 2009

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WASHINGTON, August 3, 2009 – At the Commerce Department and the Federal Communications Commission, one key question pertaining to the broadband stimulus is still being deliberated: whether state entities, and the public at large, will get access to “disaggregated” Form 477 data collected by the FCC over the past nine years.

Among the stories in this edition:

Special transcripts from July event available for paid subscribers of BroadbandCensus.com:

BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report content available by subscription.

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