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Obama Administration Continues Follow-through on Broadband Infrastructure Executive Order

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, September 18, 2013 – Demonstrating a thoroughness in following through on its broadband policy initiatives, the Obama administration on Monday highlighted the launch of several new broadband tracking tools.

These tools including interactive asset maps, a web-based dashboard focusing on access to rights of way, and a series of best practices for “dig once” initiatives.

In a blog post on WhiteHouse.gov’s section devoted to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Ron Hewitt of the Homeland Security Department and Martha Benson of the General Services Administration cataloged the administration’s progress since the June 2012 Executive Order on accelerating broadband infrastructure deployment.

One key aspect of that Executive Order was the establishment of a Broadband Deployment on Federal Property Working Group, by representatives of key federal government agencies.

This working group was tasked with coordinating consistent federal broadband procedures and requirements; facilitating a uniform process for contracts and permits on federal lands; and  for enabling the deployment of conduit for broadband facilities in conjunction with federally-assisted highway construction.

This last area is sometimes referred to as the “dig once” initiative, and provides for the laying of conduit for fiber-optic cables at the same time that federal or state highways are constructed.

Under the leadership of Gov. Pat Quinn, the state of Illinois has been a leader in this initiative, implementing “dig once” laws since at least 2009.

Many of these policies were in turn highlighted in the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan — including Illinois’ “dig once” law — which the federal agency released in March 2010.

Among the areas highlighted in the blog post include:

In the blog post, Hewitt, the Director for the Office of Emergency Communications at DHS, and Benson, the Public Buildings Service Assistant Commissioner at the GSA’s Office of Real Property Asset Management, write:

Broadband access is essential to the Nation’s global competitiveness.  It drives job creation, promotes innovation, expands markets for American businesses, and supports improved education, health care, and public safety.  Today, however, too many areas still lack adequate access to this crucial resource.

One way the Administration is working to bolster broadband deployment is by reducing barriers for companies to install broadband infrastructure on Federal properties and roads. The Federal Government owns or manages nearly 30 percent of all land in the United States, including 10,000 buildings nationwide. These properties can provide excellent pathways for deployment of broadband infrastructure.

Additionally, the post makes reference to a progress report progress report (PDF) of the Federal Property Working Group, which is chaired by Hewitt and Benson.

In speaking about the “dig once” initiative, the progress report notes:

Many state and local stakeholders have recognized the value of Dig Once policies for expediting the deployment of fiber along main highway routes. Very few states, however, have implemented statewide Dig Once policies. Implementation is more common at the local level. In addition, some localities have instituted moratori on street excavation to preserve new roadway construction, while others allow multiple excavations as long as benefits can be achieved, such as repairing the street or obtaining additional fiber. In general, state and local agencies favor approaches that encourage cooperation, but do not prevent multiple excavations.

Still, the report highlights two brief case studies, one from Utah:

Promotion of State Economic Growth through Broadband Deployment

The Utah DOT (UDOT) has been successful in facilitating the expansion of broadband infrastructure in remote areas of the State where highway ROWs are open at all times, allowing for easy access to complete continuous build-outs. The state also installs empty conduit during highway construction. They found that if the state installs small sections of conduit, telecoms have cooperated in helping to extend the infrastructure and provide services to rural communities. By using this approach, the state has been able to provide most of its regions with a connection. In addition, UDOT has been able to leverage their infrastructure by trading it for fiber that has been used to connect state-operated facilities and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). UDOT also helps communities understand how to attract telecoms by working with them to learn how to install their own conduit, providing construction standards and contact information. UDOT’s efforts to deploy broadband has advanced state ITS initiatives, and helped to promote economic growth in both urban and rural areas.

And another from Boston:

Boston Dig Once Case Study

In an effort to minimize excavations on the busy streets of Boston, the City adopted a policy in 1994 that mandated all telecoms to install their underground conduits “in the same trench, at the same time on a shared-cost basis.” The “joint build” policy that was created put the local telecoms in a leading role for planning and providing telecommunication services for the City. Under this policy, a “lead company” is established. The lead company is any company (telecom provider, or not) that approaches the City first for a build-out request and takes the lead in coordinating the construction. The lead company and participating telecoms work together to draft the engineering plans, estimate construction costs and submit the built-out application to the City’s Public Improvement Commission, the body that reviews and approves the application.

Among the key forthcoming items in regards to implementing the Executive Order is the development of an online platform for a common application for infrastructure projects with a broadband component.

According to the progress report, “To help alleviate these challenges, USDA Rural Utilities Services (RUS) is designing and piloting a common application system that would be the first of its kind to integrate RUS funding opportunities for broadband, water and waste, and electric projects (and associated environmental reviews) across the three programs for entities seeking grants from RUS. Ultimately, modules will be developed interfacing with other government agencies that are involved in the grant and permitting review processes.” This effort is expected to be available by December 2013.

Drew Clark is a nationally-respected broadband expert who founded BroadbandCensus.com and the Broadband Breakfast Club. Follow the news feed for Broadband Census News at http://twitter.com/broadbandcensus. Previously, he served as Executive Director of Broadband Illinois. BroadbandBreakfast.com tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, programs to advance broadband adoption and use, developments in the universal service fund, and wireless spectrum policy. Drew is also available on Google+ and Twitter.

LTE Growing Faster Than Ever

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband's Impact/International/Mobile Broadband/Tribal Broadband/Wireless by

Long Term Evolution is growing faster than any other mobile platform in history, according to a recent report from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

The GSA report includes both variants of LTE: Time Division Duplex and Frequency Division Duplex.  Mobile carriers are developing 128 networks in 52 nations and conducting another 52 trials. TeliaSonera, which is a major telecommunications provider in Nordic and Baltic countries, currently has 17 live networks predominantly in Scandinavia.

In the United States, three of the major mobile providers, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile have all planned to launch LTE networks. Additionally a number of smaller firms including Cellular South, Century Tel, and Leap also have plans to deploy networks. Currently only MetroPCS has a live network in the United States, Verizon’s network is live in 35 U.S. cities, but there are no mobile handsets yet available for it.

Using a stimulus grant Commnet Wireless will setup a network across the Navajo nation which will span areas of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The network will provide access to 49 tribal communities.

Biden Touts Broadband Among Stimulus Funding, Although Nearly No Funds Released

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband Updates/NTIA by

Vice President Joe Biden gave an update on Thursday of the grants issued under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including broadband. Although practically no funds have yet been issued for broadband, the subject was included in the update of programs that are a part of the “president’s overall commitment to a lay a new foundation for economic growth in the 21st century” – together with smart grid, high-speed rail and health information technology.

Biden said that, “As we enter the final quarter of 2009, we’re going to build on that progress with investments in new technology and infrastructure that create good jobs and keeps us on a path toward economic growth.” The Obama administration claimed that ARRA was responsible for approximately one million jobs so far. At the same time, the administration said that more than 170 projects that were halted or modified because of concerns that the money could be better spent elsewhere, Biden said.

Some of the halted or modified projects include projects from the Department of Defense, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Transportation, General Services Administration and Department of Agriculture.

On Transparency, Advocacy Group Waits for Obama to 'Show Us The Data'

in Broadband's Impact by

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss Andrew Feinberg’s video interview with Brock Meeks on BroadbandCensus TV.

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2009 – The new administration of President Barack Obama’s has a limited window to fulfill its promise of transparency in government, Center for Democracy & Technology officials said Tuesday.

CDT vice president Ari Schwartz praised the Obama White House for making open government – an issue on which the president made central to his campaign and his image – a theme “from day one.” The administration seems to make “another open government announcement literally every day,” Schwartz said.

While transparency is a “keystone, signature issue” for the new administration, making good on its promises “is going to be an interesting challenge,” said CDT president and CEO Leslie Harris. The toughest aspect of changing the culture of secrecy in Washington is “a bureaucracy created for closure – not openness,” Harris said.

The administration has let 30 days pass on its self-imposed 120 day deadline to for the GSA, OMB and a yet-to-be-named National Chief Technology Officer to create a national directive on open government, Schwartz said. And with the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and in launching the Recovery.gov web site, the Obama administration will face an early test.

Promises don’t make transparency so, said CDT. Together with the Sunlight Foundation, CDT announced the “Show Us The Data” project where users can help create a list of documents that should be online, but aren’t. While in the past CDT has had lists of the “10 most wanted government documents,” Schwartz said this is the first time the group has allowed voting.

The administration has so far been unsuccessful in posting most bills passed by Congress for the self-imposed five-day public viewing period, Schwartz said. While he acknowledged the need for exceptions for “emergency” legislation, he said that firmly defining those exceptions is “extremely important.”

Another area of concern is the continual failure to make available Congressional Research Service reports. While the Wikileaks and OpenCRS project have managed to post many reports online, the CRS still will not make them public on their own initiative. And while concerns over politicization of the reports may have been valid at one time, Harris said that the number of reports publicly available made such worries moot.

“A lot of open government folks have judged the Obama administration based on past administrations,” Harris said. And the first few Executive Orders the President signed went far towards restoring transparency in comparison to the Bush administration, she noted. But the Recovery.gov site and the 120 day threshold will hold the administration to its own rhetoric, she said.

Schwartz said the administration had “a lot of work to do [in the privacy space]” – including work the new Justice Department must face in culling many of the Bush-era directives that restrict privacy or access to information. “They need to get moving,” he said.

Harris said it’s alright to give them a bit more time. But to Harris, time to enact concrete changes means a “matter of months…not a matter of years,” at least for most transparency issues.

Some agencies will take longer to fix, she said. Despite calls from Acting Chairman Michael Copps for more transparency, Harris called the Federal Communications Commission “broken” and “with no consistent process.” The FCC needs to “figure out a regular procedure and stick to it,” she said.

But despite the “signs of disappointment” from some in the Web 2.0 crowd that change isn’t faster in coming, Schwartz called for a little more slack, and urged the public to take another look at the 120-day mark.

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