Go to Appearance > Menu to set "Primary Menu"

Bringing you the latest in Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, wireless and more

Tag archive

Mary Beth Henry

Fiber to the Library Gets Momentum with Google, NATOA Endorsements

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband's Impact/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, October 1, 2009 – Libraries could serve as platforms for successful use of stimulus funds if existing broadband infrastructure is upgraded to next-generation standards, the Fiber to the Library initiative said Wednesday.

The project said that it had received endorsements from Google, the Fiber to the Home project and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors.

Using BTOP grant funds to bring fiber to each of America’s public libraries could give the country the best bang for the stimulus buck by allowing them to act as a platform for technological experimentation, said FTTL founder Don Means in an interview.

“We see libraries as early adopters of technologies,” he said. “A lot of people had their first experience with first-generation broadband at a library,” he added. “We think libraries are demand drivers for emerging technologies.”

Libraries already serve an important role in increasing broadband availability by providing open wireless access points, Means said. He described a recent experience during which he used a Wi-Fi access point in a library parking lot to work when he found his hotel did not provide internet access.

But many libraries operate with inadequate connectivity to accommodate today’s bandwidth-heavy internet applications, Means said.

Replacing current connections with next-generation fiber will allow libraries to serve as test-beds for a wide variety of community technology projects, he suggested.”[Libraries] are very useful in answering a whole lot of technology and public policy questions,” he said.

“Let’s treat these…as demonstration sites,” he suggested, or “community laboratories for all kinds of technologies.” Improving the public infrastructure already extant at libraries “provides the biggest bang for the stimulus buck” by connecting every community in the country to next-generation broadband he said.

FTTL is the type of broadband project Google can strongly support, said Richard Whitt, the company’s Washington-based telecommunications and media counsel.

“Public libraries provide a place for all citizens to gather and utilize advanced technologies,” he said. Upgrading libraries capability will “help transform those institutions into future technology hubs, local community nodes, and the essential information centers for the 21st Century,” he said.

Even Fiber to the Home advocates support expanding capacity to libraries as a stimulus priority. “Providing next-generation broadband access via optical fiber to America’s libraries assures our library system will be able to meet the information needs of the 21st century,” said FTTH Council President Joe Savage.

NATOA President Mary Beth Henry was similarly enthusiastic about her organization’s endorsement of FTTL “Countless local governments have worked with public libraries for more than a decade to offer high-capacity Internet access over fiber optics, much as we do to other key anchor institutions,” she said. “Libraries serve the essential function in any community of offering connectivity to the unconnected, and as the public space where all can experience the value of next generation online applications.”

But the greatest value of Fiber to the Library as a stimulus project could be found in its quantifiable nature, Means told us. While many are questioning the efficacy of stimulus projects, FTTL would be a “measurable, doable project within the existing BTOP funds,” he said. “When the last red light turns to green…we’ll know all 16,500 libraries are connected,” he said.”

By comparison, Means invoked NASA’s successful repair of the Hubble Space Telescope as another quantifiable accomplishment America could be proud of. “The country needs a win,” he said.

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.

State and Local Regulators Say 'Relevance' Needed For Successful Broadband Adoption

in Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2009 – Making broadband applications more relevant in underserved and unserved communities could be a better use of stimulus funds than building infrastructure, a group of state and local regulatory officials Friday at a cable industry show here.

The lack of relevance to users is definitely the “largest barrier to broadband adoption,” said John Horrigan, associate research director at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Dealing with the issue properly will require infrastructure programs to be combined with “training and support” initiatives to improve overall digital literacy, said Horrigan.

In addition to focusing on rural areas, California Public Utility Commissioner Rachelle Chong said that “urban disadvantaged” communities is an area in which her state is actively involved through the California Emerging Technology Fund. The fund paid for computer refurbishing programs and technology training in low-income communities.

But California has bigger plans, she said, including a “digital literacy” policy for the state’s entire education system.

One “big think” project that could come next year is the distribution of laptop computers to all students in the lowest performing middle schools, along with appropriate technology training for teachers, students, and their parents. Chong later said California could possibly submit “dozens” of broadband-adoption applications to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s grants program.

Tampa mayor John Marks said policies to foster adoption could come on a local level, but said he was concerned about potential conflicts with state and national policymakers. A national broadband strategy would help drive decision making, he said. “We need to have that kind of comprehensive policy… to tell us which way we want to go.”

Washington, D.C., Public Services Commission Chairman Betty Ann Kane said that some urban areas could be deemed unserved.

While acknowledging that D.C. has its infrastructure built up, Kane called the idea that broadband is available in all urban areas a “myth.” But “people do not come” in many places where it is available because of cost and lack of options compared to other services with higher adoption rates. “There is clearly an affordability issue,” she said.

Kane said D.C is considering many solutions, including opening up the city’s municipal Wi-Fi network as well as the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed Universal Service pilot project. The project would expand the Life Line and Link Up programs to include broadband.

But simply expanding broadband to libraries and community technology centers runs the risk of creating a new digital divide, she said. And as more government services migrate online, Kane warned that divide would only expand.

Programs for encouraging adoption must stay locally-focused to be successful, said Mary Beth Henry, Deputy Director at the Portland, Ore., Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management. In addition to thinking locally, success requires “compelling content that would drive people to want to use the Internet,” she said.

Marks questioned the efficacy of focusing on computers as the primary on-ramp to the Internet. “Some people will never have a laptop in their home,” he said, “but they will have a big screen TV.” And broadband applications don’t require a laptop, he said. Under a successful national policy, “everybody should be able to benefit,” he said.

Public-private partnerships should play a major role in deployment and adoption programs, said Virginia State Delegate Joe May. But Kane warned that many previous partnerships are often one-time, “charity” programs. That practice must stop and give way to sustainable initiatives, she said.

And telecommunications companies must stop their opposition to municipal networks, she said. While municipal Wi-Fi can’t match the speeds of broadband offered by some land-based carriers, Wi-Fi could allow people to gain access to broadband and become “future customers” for broadband providers, she said.

Partnerships are “essential,” but should not preclude local government action if the private sector cannot or will not provide adequate services, said Marks.

But May pointed out that Virginia had ended up in “standoff” with incumbent carriers, who tried to ban municipal broadband.

The conflict resulted in public-private partnerships emerging as a “compromise” solution, he said. While municipalities should go forward in the absence of private sector action, May said it was important to make sure private business always get the “first crack” at broadband opportunities.

Chong pointed out that the “delicate balance” struck in the 1996 Telecommunications Act favored of competition. Municipalities may attempt their own solutions after a market failure, Chong said, but stressed that they should not be allowed to go first.

Go to Top