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How Should the FCC Regulate Broadband? A Roundup of ‘Third Way’ Comments

in FCC/FCC Comments/Net Neutrality/Net Neutrality Comments by

WASHINGTON July 16, 2010 – After the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision upholding Comcast’s ability to thwart broadband traffic over the peer-to-peer file-sharing software BitTorrent, the Federal Communications Commission was faced with uncertainty in regulating broadband.

In order to give the FCC firmer ground to regulate internet services, agency Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a proposal that has been dubbed the “Third Way” between regulating and deregulating internet services.

Thursday was the deadline for comments from the public regarding the notice of inquiry which was issued in June. Consumer groups and content makers praised aspects of the “Third Way,” while internet service providers were largely opposed.

Supporters of the “Third Way” claimed that the FCC needed to reclassify broadband in order to allow for consumer protection.

Free Press, a media advocacy group, supports this reclassification, saying “a  limited Title II classification will uphold  the  commonly  shared  principles  of  universal  service,  competition,  interconnection, nondiscrimination, consumer protection, and reasoned deregulation — principles that created the Internet revolution.”

Title II refers to that portion of the Telecom Act that allows the FCC to regulate telephone companies as common carriers. Under a series of deregulatory moves in the 1990s and in the past decade, the FCC has placed internet services – as opposed to telecommunications services – under the less-regulatory framework of Title I.

These advocacy groups also contend that the “Third Way” will withstand judicial review. They cite the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Brand X Internet Services v. FCC decision, which granted the FCC the authority to make classification determinations.

“The  Supreme  Court  has  instructed  that  in  matters  of  administrative  policy, “change  is  not  invalidating,”  and  that  the  forces  of  change  do  not  always  or necessarily  point  in  the  direction  of  deregulation.   “Revisiting  the  classification determinations is an appropriate and much-needed exercise”

Internet telephone company Vonage supported the “Third Way.” but also said that the FCC had power under ancillary authority – or Title I – to achieve appropriate regulation of companies like Comcast.

The National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates supported reclassification, and said that the original classification of cable services as an information service was wrong.

NARUC said that this classification “has become ever more incorrect, inadequate, and destructive of broadband progress with each passing year.”

The Ohio Public Utility supported the “Third Way,” but wanted the ability to regulate some issues at the state level, such as universal service and E911, or advanced location-based 911 services.

The main opposition to the “Third Way” came from broadband providers including Verizon Communications, AT&T and Cox Communications.

Verizon called the third way “a return to the old way of antiquated common carriage regulation that was developed in the 1800s for monopoly transportation and utility services.”

The company said that the imposition of the “Third Way” would increased regulatory uncertainty. It also warned against applying these rules to the wireless broadband market, a relatively new market.

Verizon said that the FCC does not have the legal authority to make this change. “As the Commission itself has repeatedly determined, and the Supreme Court has affirmed, retail broadband Internet access offered to consumers is an integrated ‘information service,’ not a ‘telecommunications service’ subject to common carriage regulation under Title II.”

AT&T also expressed opposition reclassifying broadband under Title II. They said:

Reclassification of those providers as Title II “common carriers” would be unnecessary to advance any valid policy objective, would present risks and harms that dwarf any putative benefits, and would all but scuttle the Administration’s ambitious broadband agenda.”

AT&T said that “there is a far better way to achieve that agenda than trying to cram today’s broadband Internet access providers into an ill-fitting 20th century regulatory silo, as the NOI’s ‘third way’ proposal would do.”

Rather, Congress should update the Communications Act to “encourage greater consumer-oriented transparency by broadband providers.”

The Institute for Policy Innovation also opposed the “Third Way.” It said that increased regulation will simply hamper innovation. Instead, it proposed the creation of “Broadband Enterprise Zones.”

“In areas designated as “Broadband Enterprise Zones” (based on broadband mapping), broadband providers would receive federal tax credits which could be used to offset the company’s overall federal tax burden. And vouchers could be issued to homeowners to pay for installation and setup within the Enterprise Zone.”

Cox Communications also opposed the reclassification on the grounds that the FCC has repeatedly determined broadband internet service as an information service.

“Those determinations were based, properly, on the service provided to the customer, a service that uses telecommunications to provide classic information service functionalities.  Attempting to change course now would be inconsistent with the facts and the law, and would have unintended consequences.”

The third set of comments assert that the FCC does not have the statuary authority to reclassify.  The National Religious Broadcasters said , that the FCC needed to wait for statutory authority from Congress.

The Communications Workers of America said that the FCC’s proposal will face years in court, and that the best solution was targeted legislation. However, they said they understand that the FCC seeks to act. They endorsed the concept of using ancillary authority under Title I.

Alcatel-Lucent said that the FCC is moving too quickly and does not have the information or the authority to reclassify broadband services. The maker of telecommunications equipment said they would like Congress to debate the issue and then come to a legislative solution.

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.

National Broadband Plan: A Look at Chapter 6 and Infrastructure

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

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of articles written by BroadbandBreakfast.com staff summarizing each chapter of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2010 – Chapter Six of the National Broadband Plan tackles one of the most basic issues with broadband expansion by focusing on infrastructure. This chapter deals with the physical act of laying cables and erecting antennae.

One of the telecommunications’ companies biggest complaints is the very high cost of laying cables on poles, and they say that the wide range in pricing makes it difficult to plan long distance projects.

According to the FCC’s plan, the variability in cost ranges from $7 per foot to as much as $20. Additionally, the prices also vary depending on the type of service provided.

Currently, the price for cable is cheaper than telecom with incumbent local exchanges generally paying the highest price. The difference in price for essentially the same service leads to market inaccuracies and should be rectified, according to the plan. The FCC recommends that it begin rule-making proceedings to help decrease the costs and to ensure that the costs are uniform, based on service.

In order to decrease the costs for expansion, a “make ready” process should be enacted for poles. This make-ready process would allow for poles to be set up in such a manner that new attachments could be added more quickly and simply.

Another issue that the chapter addresses is infrastructure disputes. There currently is a mechanism for dealing with these disputes, but it’s very limited. Under the current system, a utility must respond within 45 days of the initial complaint. However after this is done, there is no limit on the time for the subsequent steps. Some states already have set limits on how quickly utilities must respond, and the plan suggests that a new federal time limit should be put in place.

The plan also describes how the federal government can play a direct role in the assistance of expansion through actions taken by the General Services Administration and the Department of Transportation.

The plan suggests that when Transportation is laying down roads it should also allow fiber providers to lay cables along the trenches it creates. This multiple uses of road trenches already occur in Amsterdam and both Chicago and Akron, Ohio, have begun to do this with success.

To expand wireless access the plan suggests that the GSA should create a “master contract” for the placement of wireless towers. This streamlined process would allow for the expedited installation of wireless towers. The GSA owns buildings in almost every major city, which would allow for a faster expansion.

Commerce Announces Investments in Washington, Ohio

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

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2010 – The Commerce Department announced broadband investments in Washington and Ohio this week.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Monday announced an $84 million grant to help improve education and healthcare in Washington state. The grant aims to bring high-speed Internet access to more than 100 community institutions such as libraries and government agencies.

The funds will enable the Northwest Open Access Network, known as NoaNet, to deliver new and enhanced broadband capabilities to some of the more remote regions of the state by adding 830 miles of fiber and eight new microwave sites to their existing high-speed network.

The Washington project plans to directly connect the Jamestown S’Klallam tribal center, library and clinic, and the Shoalwater tribal center and clinic, as well as provide connection opportunities for the Makah tribal center and clinic.

In Ohio, a Recovery Act investment aims to bridge the technological divide and increase economic opportunities in vulnerable and low-income communities in the Ohio regions of Cleveland, Akron, and Zanesville.

ZeroDivide Looks for Broadband Grant Partnerships

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2009 – ZeroDivide, an investor in community enterprises leveraging technology to help underserved communities, is looking for non-profit partners to apply for broadband monies that are part of the national economic stimulus plan.

It’s specifically looking for collaborations to secure funds from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grants. It hopes to expand its work in a handful of western states including Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico along with Illinois, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

ZeroDivide says its strategy is to “build the capacity of vulnerable communities to understand, design and use broadband technology through systematic teaching, training, technical assistance and providing resources to a peer-based network of community anchor institutions in vulnerable communities.”

It hopes to accomplish its goal by focusing on community media production and distribution, online vocational skills curriculum development, community and civic engagement and technology capacity building.

The company is expecting all partners to complete an online application and should be looking to apply for up to $75,000 for two years.

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