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Commerce Department’s National Telecommunication and Information Administration Highlights Successes Using Broadband in Education

in Broadband's Impact/Education by

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2013 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration described the projects that are already underway that will help achieve the goals laid out in President Barack Obama’s ConnectEd program in a blog post on Monday.

Currently, 75 percent of the NTIA’s 116 network infrastructure projects are providing connections to schools. However, schools must not only be simply connected but must have access to the high amount of bandwidth needed to support video and other applications requiring high connection speeds on a large number of devices at once.

The post focuses mainly on the efforts of MCNC, a non-profit broadband provider founded in 1980 as the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina, to provide adequate internet connections for schools and other institutions.

Through funding from the NTIA, the MCNC has been able to upgrade 800 miles of existing fiber and construct an additional 1800 miles of fiber in its network. The project is also funding the construction of direct, last-mile fiber within its districts.

This work is especially important, as North Carolina ranked lowest among the states with residential fixed broadband connections with advertised download speeds of at least 3 Megabits per second (Mbps), according to the data released by the Federal Communications Commission in May of this year.

North Carolina has 668,000 connections of that speed, and 3,818,000 households, for a subscribership ratio of 17 percent. The state fares better in the ratio of connections greater than 200 Kilobits per second, according to the report.

The MCNC-established North Carolina Research and Education Network stretches across 115 school districts and serves nearly 2,500 schools. These schools, along with various other anchor institutions, receive speeds of at least 100 Mbps. These speeds have allowed the schools to grow their data usage during peak hours from one gigabit in 2009 to 35 gigabits.

The availability of these high-capacity, high-speed broadband connections has had a major impact on the education system. The blog post highlights a number of counties, such as, the Avery County public schools system, which issued each of its 2,250 students a laptop or tablet, allowing the district to phase out physical textbooks in favor of online educational resources.

In Rutherford County, schools have begun to embrace interactive, online forms of teaching by providing all middle and high school students with laptops.

Additionally, Mooresville County, where Obama initially announced the ConnectEd program, has transitioned almost all activities to electronic functions and has entirely stopped buying physical textbooks.

The ConnectEd program was announced last month. Obama set the goal of providing ultra high-speed broadband connections to 99 percent of students within the next five years.

California State Assembly Passes Online Sales Tax Bill

in States/The Innovation Economy by

WASHINGTON June 7, 2011- The California State Assembly passed a bill last week that would require online retailers such as Amazon to collect state sales taxes on all goods the site sells within the state.

The bill is similar to those that a number of other states and the U.S. Congress are currently debating.

“Each year, California loses over $1.145 billion in revenues as a result of unreported use taxes.  A large percentage of this use tax gap is attributable to out-of-state Internet sales,” said Assemblyman Charles Calderon, the author of the bill.  “More importantly, the lack of use tax collection has provided a competitive advantage to many out-of-state companies, allowing them to undercut their in-state competitors.”

The bill passed the lower house of the California legislature by a 47-16 vote and will now move the state Senate.

The California State Board of Equalization, which administers and collects sales tax, estimated that on average each household owes $61 in taxes for online sales that are not collected. Collecting taxes on Amazon sales alone would generate $83 million in revenue for the state.

“[The bill] would help to level the playing field by imposing a use tax collection obligation on retailers that use in-state sister companies to help develop or sell their goods,” Calderon said.

South Dakota, Missouri, Nevada and Connecticut are all also currently investigating collecting sales taxes from online retailers.

Illinois passed a similar piece of legislation in April, which the state estimated would generate $170 million in revenue.

After the Comptroller of Public Accounts in Texas asked Amazon to pay $269 million in uncollected sales taxes, the online retailer closed its distribution facility in Irving, Texas in February.

When the North Carolina legislature passed a law last October requiring Amazon to collect sales taxes for goods sold through its North Carolina-based affiliates, the retailer shut the affiliates program down in that state. The program allows small businesses to sell goods on the Amazon site.

New York passed a piece of legislation similar to the North Carolina law in 2008.  Amazon is currently challenging both the New York and North Carolina laws in state courts.

In May, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) proposed the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2011, which would create a simplified way in which digital goods and services could be taxed. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is also working on an online sales tax bill.

NTIA Gives $6.1 Million in Grants to North Carolina, Washington

in Broadband's Impact/Education/States/Tribal Broadband by

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2010 – The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Thursday announced two American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investments, totaling $6.1 million in grants, to North Carolina and Washington.

“These Recovery Act investments illustrate how broadband technology can not only expand economic and educational opportunities, but it can also make the justice system more accessible to the public,”  NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling said.

North Carolina Central University’s School of Law will receive about $2 million to upgrade broadband service while expanding access to its legal education programs. The project will use videoconferencing to bring low-income residents greater access to legal services and extend classes to four partner historically black colleges and universities and 22 legal assistance sites.

The project also plans to hold legal writing seminars for undergraduates to prepare them for law school and increase minority representation in the legal profession, as well as to provide legal classes geared toward middle and high school students.

The Puget Sound Center Foundation for Teaching, Learning, and Technology will receive a $4.1 million grant to expand or upgrade 39 public computer centers in Washington state. This includes partnering with the Northwest Justice Project, Washington’s publicly funded legal aid program, to establish public computer centers in five rural courts, including the Kalispel tribal court, where the public can access online legal resources and other services. The project also plans enhanced training offerings for economically vulnerable populations, including courses addressing GED test preparation, digital literacy, job searches and financial education.

NTIA will make all Broadband Technology Opportunities Program awards by Sept. 30.

Experts Discuss State-level Solutions for Broadband

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2010 – A panel of experts convened on Monday to discuss the issue of how to expand broadband at the State level, with a focus on communications challenges. The panel included representatives of North Carolina, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Washington, and disseminated its ideas via a webcast moderated by Greg Laudeman of the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Due to time constraints, only the presenters from Minnesota, Washington and the table. Bernadine Joselyn of the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota stressed the importance of youth outreach, noting that for young voters, web access was a more fundamental issue than for older generations.

“We like to talk about these generation Yers, who are not technology users. They are technology assumers,” Blandin said. “The difference between what they require to live and work and what exists can result in a gut-wrenching, gasping experience with the topic that is inconceivable if you get a bunch of baby boomers talking about the technology.”

Meanwhile, Luc Miron of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took a more inviting approach, suggesting that Pennsylvania was open to considering a variety of approaches to broadband expansion. “We want to hear what folks’ perception is, and what should be the role of the State,” Miron said.

Angela Wu, the speaker from Washington, stressed the importance of industry outreach. “We ended up with a list of about a thousand broadband stakeholders in our State,” Wu said, describing an information compilation process her state government undertook.

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.

Commerce Department Announces 10 Broadband Investments Worth $63 Million

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

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2010 – The Commerce Department on Thursday announced 10 investments in broadband growth across the nation that total approximately $63 million.

The following grants were announced yesterday:

Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – Navajo Tribal Utility Authority: $32.2 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $13.8 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed affordable broadband services to the Navajo Nation by deploying 550 miles of new aerial fiber-optic cable and 59 new or modified microwave towers covering 15,000 square miles in three states. The proposed service area has rugged terrain and significant poverty, and more than 60 percent of residents lack basic telephone service. The project expects to directly connect 49 Chapter Houses, which serve as community centers for the Navajo population, at speeds from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps. Last-mile wireless services will be offered at speeds between 1 and 3 Mbps through the project’s wireless partner, Commnet Wireless.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Texas – Mission Economic Development Agency: $3.7 million public computer center grant with an additional $2.5 million applicant-provided match to create 12 new public computer centers and expand five existing ones in Phoenix, Ariz.; Canoga Park, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, Calif.; Del Norte, Colo.; Blackfoot, Idaho; Wheaton, Md.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Anthony, NM; Philadelphia, Pa.; and San Antonio and Laredo, Texas. Each center expects to operate on the project’s centrally managed network and provide computer training and adult education to a low broadband adoption, high unemployment target population through a standardized English-Spanish training curriculum.

Idaho – First Step Internet: $2.4 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $600,000 applicant-provided match to build a regional network of 10 microwave towers to extend high-capacity Internet service in the rural counties of Latah, Idaho, Clearwater, Lewis, and Nez Perce in north-central Idaho. The project intends to directly connect 42 anchor institutions, including healthcare facilities, emergency response agencies, libraries, and government offices, as well as institutions serving the Nez Perce Tribe.

Illinois – City of Chicago: $7 million sustainable broadband adoption grant with an additional $2.3 million applicant-provided match to spur economic development in five disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago with a comprehensive broadband awareness and adoption program that will include providing computers and training opportunities to more than 11,000 residents and 500 small businesses and not-for-profits. The project intends to create public computer centers at six community centers for working families and expand workstation capacity at four Business Resource Centers, as well as provide 1,500 residents and small businesses that complete a multi-session training course with laptops and netbooks.

Minnesota – C.K. Blandin Foundation: $4.9 million sustainable broadband adoption grant with an additional $1.5 million applicant-provided match to launch the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities initiative, a multi-sector, comprehensive approach to sustainable broadband adoption targeting residents, small businesses, local governments, and critical services providers in each of Minnesota’s 80 rural counties. The project anticipates training as many as 2,500 individuals in computer literacy, online education, and workforce development, and plans to distribute 1,000 affordable refurbished computers. Funding will also support the development of institutional broadband applications for schools and healthcare facilities to help increase broadband adoption.

North Carolina – Fayetteville State University: $1 million public computer center grant with an additional $263,000 applicant-provided match to provide 30 new computer workstations, wireless Internet access, and training courses at a new public computer center for the Fayetteville, North Carolina, community, including residents of local public housing. The project will include courses on Internet basics, personal finance and health, and basic job skills. The first 50 users to complete all of these courses will receive a laptop computer for home use. This project will be led by Fayetteville State University, a Historically Black University, in partnership with the Fayetteville Metropolitan Housing Authority and other organizations that will provide training targeted to the needs of low-income persons.

Ohio and Pennsylvania – Zito Media Communications: $6.1 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $1.5 million applicant-provided match to create a 382-mile fiber ring with 10 gigabits of capacity through the counties of Geauga, Ashtabula, and Trumbull in Northeastern Ohio, and the counties of Erie, Crawford, and Mercer in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The project plans to deploy 342 miles of new fiber and 40 miles of leased fiber to directly connect an estimated 60 community anchor institutions at speeds from 10 Mbps to 1 Gbps, including hospitals, schools, public safety agencies, colleges, and libraries.

Vermont – Vermont Council on Rural Development: $2.5 million sustainable broadband adoption grant with an additional $1.2 million applicant-provided match to increase broadband Internet access and adoption in 24 small, mostly rural communities through a comprehensive effort combining broadband training, access, awareness, and planning. The Vermont Council on Rural Development and its project partners plan to train more than 1,800 individuals and distribute an estimated 1,200 computers to 4th and 5th grade students, as well as work with teachers to integrate broadband usage into lesson plans.

Virginia – Nelson County of Virginia: $1.8 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $457,000 applicant-provided match to enhance and expand broadband Internet services in areas of rural Nelson County, Virginia by deploying 31 miles of new fiber and four new wireless tower sites, and directly connecting 13 community anchor institutions. The anchor institutions receiving direct connections to the new network are expected to include seven county government facilities, four K-12 schools, a library, and the Blue Ridge Medical Center.

Virginia – Page County Broadband Authority: $1.6 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $412,000 applicant-provided match to deploy a 39-mile fiber network that will serve the four principal towns in Page County, Virginia, a rural and underserved area in the Shenandoah region of Western Virginia. The network expects to directly connect 29 anchor institutions including, 11 K-12 schools, three libraries, six healthcare facilities, Lord Fairfax Community College, and eight public safety institutions.

Gates Foundation Looks To Expand Upon Prior Grant to Libraries Offering Broadband

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus by

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2009 – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Tuesday it will provide close to $3.4 million in grants to improve Internet connections for libraries in five states. The foundation is also partnering with 14 other states to assist efforts by libraries to secure some of the $7.2 billion in federal stimulus funds allotted by Congress in January to expand broadband deployment and adoption.

“When libraries have access to broadband, they can effectively deliver critical educational, employment, and government services for residents that lack Internet access elsewhere. As community anchor institutions, libraries can also help drive local broadband adoption,” said Jill Nishi, deputy director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s U.S. Libraries program, in a statement.

The five states receiving Gates Foundation grants to implement local broadband improvement plans have partnered with the foundation since early 2009 to develop strategies for improving Internet connections for their libraries.

These states include: Arkansas, which received $735,207 from the foundation this week; Kansas, which received $363,099; Massachusetts, which received $367,789; New York, which received $947,517; and Virginia, which received $977,468. The Gates Foundation said the state libraries of California and Texas participated in the program and will be eligible for grants in early 2010. It also added that it has “invested $350 million in grants and support to install and sustain computers in libraries and train thousands of library staff in all 50 states and U.S. territories.”

In late 2008 the Gates Foundation said it would provide Connected Nation and the American Library Association with a $7 million grant meant to improve internet connections in public libraries. Broadband Census news reported that the goal at the time was to ensure that all public libraries within seven states – Arkansas, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Virginia – have broadband connectivity of at least 1.5 Megabits per second. The foundation picked the states because they had large populations with individuals living below the poverty line.

Connected Nation, a Kentucky-based non-profit organization that is funded by Bell and cable companies and by state appropriations, was not mentioned in the Gates Foundation release Tuesday. “Today’s grant announcement is for the five states to implement the plans that they developed with the grant that you referenced from last year. While Connected Nation and [ALA] supported the states as they were developing these plans, the phase of the work that will be funded by today’s announcement is for the states to implement their plans for improving and sustaining high-speed Internet access,” a person familiar with the work of the foundation told Broadband Census News.

The NTIA announced Monday that Connected Nation is being awarded approximately $2 million from the government for its broadband mapping and planning efforts in the state of Kansas.

The Gates Foundation said Tuesday that states who are participating in the group’s new Opportunity Online broadband grant program will receive technical and consulting assistance to develop competitive funding proposals for available government funds. The foundation said it will match the federally-required private funds if a library is chosen. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.

The foundation said it chose “to support states that articulated the most compelling and feasible projects aligned with the objectives of the [Broadband Technology Opportunities Program] program” and “considered a state’s need for assistance in developing a competitive BTOP proposal.”

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service are administering the federal broadband stimulus funds to selected grant applicants. The American Library Association said Monday it would like the agencies to simplify the application and review process and prioritize funding for “community anchor institutions.”

“Libraries are uniquely positioned to deliver on the promise and objectives of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Initiatives Program,” said Carrie McGuire, director for the program on networks for the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy, in a statement. “We strongly encourage the NTIA and RUS to make changes to the program prior to Round 2 to ensure that libraries can take maximum advantage of this opportunity,” she said.

The Gates Foundation said nationally libraries are not able to offer high-speed Internet access to match patron demand. A recent American Library Association study found 60 percent of all libraries said their current Internet speed is insufficient. In 70 percent of U.S. communities “the public library is the only provider of free Internet access available to residents,” according to the foundation.

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