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Commerce Announces Final Grant Awards from First Funding Round

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/NTIA/States/Universal Service/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2010 – The Commerce Department has announced nine broadband investments totaling more than $114 million in grants in more than a dozen states.

The grants will fund projects that lay the groundwork to bring enhanced high-speed Internet access to thousands of households and businesses and link hundreds of schools, hospitals, libraries and public safety offices.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, funded by the Recovery Act, provides grants to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure, enhance and expand public computer centers and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service.

The announcement marks the final grant awards from the first round of BTOP applications. NTIA awarded 82 BTOP grants worth $1.2 billion that will expand broadband access and adoption through projects in states and territories. A total of 45 states and territories will be affected by this round of BTOP grants. NTIA recently began reviewing second round applications with the goal of making the first round two grant announcements this summer.

The following grants were announced yesterday:

Multiple states

One Economy Corporation: $28.5 million sustainable broadband adoption grant with an additional $23 million applicant-provided match to implement a comprehensive program of computer training, wireless Internet access, broadband awareness marketing, and online content and applications to residents of 159 affordable and public housing developments and low-income communities in 50 cities and towns across 31 states and the District of Columbia.

States impacted by this grant are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana,  Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland,  Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Idaho

Digital Bridge Communications: $1.9 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $466,000 applicant-provided match to bring affordable wireless broadband service to rural, underserved communities in Cassia County, Idaho, including the towns of Albion, Burley, Declo, Malta, and Oakley. The project would expand Digital Bridge Communications’ existing network by adding five towers, 46 miles of new fiber, and a nine-mile microwave link. The project also proposes to offer speeds of up to 3 Mbps using both fixed and mobile wireless technology, as well as directly connect approximately 25 community anchor institutions at no charge.

Digital Bridge Communications: $980,000 broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $246,000 applicant-provided match to bring affordable wireless broadband service to rural, underserved communities in Jerome County, Idaho, including the towns of Barrymore, Falls City, Greenwood, Haytown, Hunt, Hydra, Jerome, McHenry, and Sugar Loaf. The project would expand Digital Bridge Communications’ existing network by adding three towers, 15 miles of new fiber, and two microwave links. The expanded network intends to offer speeds up to 3 Mbps using both fixed and mobile wireless technology, as well as directly connect approximately 25 community anchor institutions at no charge.

Digital Bridge Communications: $1.4 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $340,000 applicant-provided match to bring affordable wireless broadband service to underserved communities in Twin Falls County, Idaho, including the towns of Buhl, Burger, Clover, Deep Creek, Fairview, Filer, Godwin, and Hansen. The project would expand Digital Bridge Communications’ existing network by adding eight towers, three miles of new fiber, and nine microwave links. This expanded network intends to offer speeds up to 3 Mbps using both fixed and mobile wireless technology, as well as directly connect approximately 25 community anchor institutions at no charge.

Kentucky

City of Williamstown, Kentucky: $535,000 broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $134,000 applicant-provided match to deploy a high-speed fiber-to-the-home broadband network to unserved and underserved communities south of its existing network in Corinth, and north of its existing network to areas of Grant and Owen counties in northern Kentucky. The project intends to offer broadband speeds up to 10 Mbps and directly connect the three municipal organizations within the service area – Corinth City Hall, the Corinth Water District, and the Corinth Volunteer Fire Department – free of charge. In addition, the project expects to offer broadband Internet access for local consumers, including approximately 680 households and 20 businesses, and spur economic growth and job creation in the region.

Oklahoma

Pine Telephone Company, Inc.: $9.5 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $2.4 million applicant-provided match to deliver affordable wireless broadband service to underserved areas of Southeastern Oklahoma, including the Tribal lands of the Choctaw Nation and its 10 counties. The project intends to directly connect 20 community anchor institutions, including Choctaw Nation agencies, public schools, public safety agencies, fire and police departments, and a health clinic. The project’s last mile network plans to offer broadband speeds ranging from 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps to as many as 7,000 households and 75 businesses.

Puerto Rico

Critical Hub Networks Inc.: $25.8 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $6.7 million applicant-provided match to provide fast, affordable broadband connectivity for last-mile Internet service providers and underserved areas of Puerto Rico, including of the islands of Culebra and Vieques. The project plans to purchase a 10 Gbps undersea fiber-optic cable directly connecting to Miami and deploy more than 180 miles of terrestrial middle-mile microwave network using 11 towers. The network will offer speeds from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps to anchor institutions, including more than 1,500 K-12 schools, and local Internet service providers.

Virginia

Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative: $19 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $5 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed affordable broadband services to 15 underserved counties and the cities of Emporia and Franklin in South Central Virginia by expanding and enhancing its existing high-speed broadband and voice communications wireless network. The BIT Wireless project intends to offer wireless broadband at speeds of up to 10 Mbps to as many as 100,000 households, 14,800 businesses, and 800 community anchor institutions. In addition, the project will promote broadband adoption by discounting the cost of the equipment necessary to subscribe at home.

Washington

Public Utility District of Pend Oreille County: $27.2 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $6.8 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed, affordable broadband   to underserved areas of Pend Oreille County in northeastern Washington State, which borders Idaho and Canada.  The proposed fiber-to-the-premises network would deploy approximately 526 miles of fiber-optic cable to deliver last-mile broadband Internet services and facilitate critical network redundancy in this rural area.  The project plans to offer affordable, high-speed broadband access to as many as 3,200 households, 360 businesses, and 24 community anchor institutions.

Broadband Plan Commentary: Ball State University

in Broadband Plan Commentary/Expert Opinion/National Broadband Plan/States/Wireless by

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of guest commentaries on the National Broadband Plan, and appears by special invitation of BroadbandBreakfast.com. Neither BroadbandCensus.com nor BroadbandBreakfast.com endorse the views in this commentary. We invite officials, experts and individuals interested in the state of broadband to offer commentaries of their own. To offer a commentary, please e-mail commentary@broadbandcensus.com. Not all commentaries may be published.

By Marc Ransford, Ball State University media relations manager

Testing prototypes. Assisting another university with a campus-wide wireless network. Delving into telecommunications policies. Investigating broadband’s impact on the economy. All are examples of Ball State University’s pioneering work with wireless broadband Internet access.

When the Federal Communications Commission asked how broadband could stimulate the nation’s economy, the Muncie, Ind., university shared its recommendations with Congress. Ball State was contacted in 2009 because of its leadership in the field of emerging media and its Digital Policy Institute’s broadband expertise. The FCC recently submitted to Congress its National Broadband Plan.

When officials at the University of Wisconsin needed a cost-effective way to test wireless broadband on city buses running throughout the Madison campus, they turned to Ball State.

As a result of a long-standing partnership with Internet networking firm Cisco Systems, Ball State is serving as a consultant on the project, recently deploying and remotely managing the wireless test bed for computer science students at its Big Ten neighbor.

“It’s an example of how Ball State’s expertise can impact other universities and colleges across the nation,” said Robert Yadon, a professor of information and communication sciences at Ball State, who has been leading an effort to transform the university into a role model for harnessing advanced wireless technology,

When such wireless broadband industry leaders as Telamon, Alvarion, Digital Bridge Communications and Cisco have wireless broadband prototypes to test, they send them to Ball State.

“We get calls from companies begging us to test their prototypes simply because of our relationship with many of the major broadband wireless vendors,” says Vernon Draper, assistant professor of computing and communications integration who has worked with Yadon on the wireless broadband testing project.

As a result of partnerships throughout the communications industry developed by Ball State’s Center for Information and Communications Sciences, the university is developing one of the country’s most sophisticated test beds for wireless broadband.

“What makes Ball State intriguing is that the university is an early adopter of new technology and then it embeds the knowledge gained in deployment into its curriculum,” said Randy Pond, Cisco’s executive vice president of operations, processes and systems. He also received his bachelor’s degrees in accounting and economics from Ball State.

“Ball State has always been on the leading edge of technology and as a result of our partnership with the university, we’ve established a national model for other technology companies to follow, he said. “It is the perfect alignment between a university and private industry.”

And in 2006, when Indiana wanted to revise its telecommunications regulations and bring broadband to underserved areas of the state, Ball State was in the forefront of providing research for new legislation.

Since 2006, DPI researchers have conducted similar studies in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio about telecommunications and video franchise reform. DPI also is continuing to study statewide video franchising and its effect upon broadband access and development nationwide, including the development of comprehensive databases on broadband deployment and its potential economic benefits.

Research into wireless broadband is a component of Ball State’s $17.7 million Emerging Media Initiative, which has won several international and national awards in the last several months.

Commerce Unveils 10 Grants Worth $357 Million

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus/Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan/States by

WASHINGTON, February 19, 2010 – Commerce Secretary Gary Locke yesterday announced 10 grants totaling $357 million to help spread high-speed Internet access across the country.

The grants are designed to increase broadband access and adoption in California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

“The level of interest in this program has been extraordinary, and is yet another indicator of the critical role broadband plays in achieving durable, sustainable economic growth,” National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Larry Strickling said. “The strongest proposals are the ones that have taken a truly comprehensive view of the communities to be served and have engaged as many key members of the communities as possible in developing the projects.”

The following is a list of the 10 grants and the winning projects:

California
Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino received a $1.2 million public computer center grant with an additional $500,000 applicant-provided match to expand and enhance the services of five computer centers located in public housing developments in San Bernardino County. The centers will add 25 new workstations, increase broadband speeds to 1.5 Mbps at each center, extend operating hours, provide a range of online training workshops, and serve more than 350 additional users per week.

Florida
North Florida Broadband Authority received a $30.1 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $9.2 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed broadband services to underserved areas in 14 North Central Florida counties through the deployment of an 1,200-mile fixed wireless broadband network. The network plans to directly connect more than 300 community anchor institutions, such as public schools, universities, libraries, healthcare facilities, public safety organizations, and government agencies, at speeds of 10 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

Indiana
Zayo Bandwidth won a $25.1 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $10.7 million applicant-provided match to directly connect 21 Ivy Tech Community College campuses to the state’s existing high-speed network for education and research, known as the I-Light network. The project plans to deploy a 626-mile fiber-optic network to provide 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps connections between the Ivy Tech campuses and the 42 colleges and universities already on the I-Light network, which will advance research, education, and economic opportunities throughout Indiana.

Louisiana
The State Library of Louisiana got an $8.8 million public computer center grant with an additional $2.4 million applicant-provided match to distribute more than 760 computer workstations to every library in the state library system, enabling the system at large to serve an additional 42,000 computer users per week. The project expects to establish wireless hotspots and deliver broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps in each location, as well as deploy four mobile computer labs to provide enhanced training opportunities.

New York
New York State Education Department received a $9.5 million public computer center grant with an additional $5.4 million applicant-provided match to provide more than 860 computers in 30 libraries and five mobile training centers across 41 economically distressed Upstate New York counties. This grant will allow libraries to extend hours, provide 24/7 access to job search resources, and serve an estimated 50,000 additional users per week system-wide.

Pennsylvania
Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research won a $99.7 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $29 million applicant-provided match to create the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network. With nearly 1,700 miles of fiber, the network expects to expand broadband Internet access and directly connect 60 critical community anchor institutions in 39 counties across south and central Pennsylvania. PennREN will enhance healthcare delivery, research, education, workforce development, and public safety by delivering broadband speeds of 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps.

Executive Office of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania won a $28.8 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $7.2 million applicant-provided match to increase broadband Internet connection speeds for community anchor institutions and underserved areas isolated by difficult, mountainous terrain in northern Pennsylvania. The project will leverage Pennsylvania’s existing microwave public safety communications network by adding a parallel 150 Mbps Ethernet backbone stretching 649 miles across the state, as well as 612 miles of fixed wireless links.

West Virginia
Executive Office of the State of West Virginia received a $126.3 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $33.5 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed Internet access to this vastly underserved region by expanding the state’s existing microwave public safety network and adding about 2,400 miles of fiber. The expanded statewide network expects to offer speeds of up to 45 Mbps and directly connect more than 1,000 anchor institutions, including public safety agencies, public libraries, schools, government offices and other critical community facilities.

Future Generations Graduate School got a $4.5 million sustainable broadband adoption grant with an additional $1.2 million applicant-provided match to implement a community-based approach to encouraging broadband adoption among low-income and predominantly rural communities across West Virginia. The project will work through volunteer fire and emergency rescue stations, equipping each participating squad with computer workstations that will be available to the public, and setting up training programs. In addition, the project will support a broadband awareness campaign that will include peer-to-peer outreach, newspaper and radio advertisements, signage to promote services, social networking, and a support Web site.

Wisconsin
The state of Wisconsin’s Department of Administration won a $22.9 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $5.7 million applicant-provided match to directly connect 385 libraries, 74 school districts, and eight community colleges (including two tribal colleges) to the existing high-speed BadgerNet Converged Network by deploying 203 miles of new fiber connections. The new connections are expected to provide schools and libraries with enhanced broadband speeds of between 20 Mbps and 100 Mbps, strengthening their ability to benefit underserved communities throughout the state.

Citizens Must Embrace and Benefit from Technology Revolution, FCC Told

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

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2009 – The technology revolution will fundamentally change and improve the way that citizens and government interact, but that change must embrace everyone to accomplish its goals, public officials and policy experts agreed Thursday.

The revolution is enabling people to access government services in a way that allows them to see how their government is operating, said Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra during the workshop hosted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Since federal money is being used to develop information technology, the government wants to engage the American people to help shape the way the money is used, he said, noting that the government is not the only source of technological innovation.

Broadband technology “enables us to create the most participatory democracy of our time” by providing better services and creating more open ways of working and policy making, said Beth Noveck, federal deputy chief technology officer for open government.

“We very much turn the policy-making process inside out,” she said.

Broadband has been used to “foster civic engagement in local communities” by getting citizens to communicate about problem in their local communities and collaborate about how to solve them, she said.

Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind., praised broadband technology for making his city easier to run more efficiently.

For example, Fort Wayne has been able to use broadband to determine how to locate and fill potholes more quickly. It also has been aided by real-time monitoring technologies allowing it to find out the amount of time a street-sweeping truck spends sweeping the street versus how much time it spends going to where it has to sweep, he said.

Broadband has helped to reduce crime rates in Fort Wayne by facilitating police communication and their deployment along with services that allow law enforcers to track a criminal’s every move, he said.

“None of us are as smart as all of us,” he said.

Kundra also touted the benefits of e-government, saying it saves money for government employees and is a “mechanism to drive productivity. For example, 50 percent of Patent and Trademark Office employees telecommute, which saves travel costs and aids the environment, he said. Additionally, when Government Accountability Office employees were forced to evacuate their building after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they were able to continue agency operations by telecommuting.

However, it’s important to ensure that employees have the proper tools and understanding of how to use technology, said Kundra. “So much of what we do online actually requires training” but “many companies have made it so difficult to interact with technologies,” he said.

Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, spoke on the second panel on civil engagement.

Because most political discourse and commerce today will conducted through broadband, “we don’t want a society of haves and have nots,” he said.

The Internet is the new “public square,” where people can learn about the government, communicate with the government, and share their ideas, and “if citizens don’t have that access they will be shut out of the public debate,” he said.

One problem, said Ornstein, is that many Internet users are “cocooning” themselves by only reading the blogs that reinforce their own ideas, and “we are losing the common set of facts around which debate can be formed.”

Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Forum, highlighted the importance of broadband in keeping average people involved in the political process.

Most videos of political candidates on YouTube during the 2008 election were created by average citizens, and this has had a tremendous impact on the political landscape, he said.

Rasiej shared the story of his elderly parents who were able to send e-mails with links to a video of then-presidential candidate Obama on YouTube to more than 50 friends at a time.

This technology can be used to protect free speech by enabling citizens to communicate with each other discreetly, and may ultimately redefine international politics by creating a “citizen to citizen diplomacy,” he said.

“If working-class people cannot access these sights,” he said, “they are being excluded from 21st century technology.”

Citizenship can only be transformed when the government is willing to make information public and in real time, said John Wunderlich, program director for the Sunlight Foundation.

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