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At Inaugural AnchorNETs Conference in Silicon Valley, The Broadband Talk is About Public-Private Partnerships

in Broadband's Impact by

MOUNTAIN VIEW, November 24, 2015 – Community broadband institutions are a key building block to accelerate deployment of high-capacity internet service, said speakers and panelists at the inaugural Anchornets conference here last week.

Such community institutions also play a vital role in facilitating public-private partnerships that aid such deployment, they said at a conference hosted by the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition at the Museum of Computer History here in the heart of Silicon Valley on Monday, November 16.

Sunne McPeak, CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund, speaks of the importance of public-private partnership to broadband.

Sunne McPeak, CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund, speaks of the importance of public-private partnership to broadband.

Among the high-profile leaders who emphasized the important role of schools and libraries in promoting high-speed internet service were former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Sunne McPeak, CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund, and Evan Marwell, founder of EducationSuperhighway, a non-profit designed to promote greater internet connectivity in schools.

“We have fiber to every school, Wi-Fi to every classroom and connectivity that every district can afford,” said Marwell, speaking of his fast-growing non-profit, which started only in 2012.

EducationSuperhighway and the SHLB Coalition have been instrumental in pressing for changes to the eRate portion of the universal service fund that supports broadband connectivity in classrooms. Last year the FCC took significant steps in July and December to boost funding, and to permit schools to enter into partnerships to build their own broadband.

The theme the public-private partnerships can help overcome existing broadband gaps was echoed during other sessions throughout the conference.

For example, during a panel on the “Economics of the Local-Middle Mile Networks,” experts and practitioners building last-mile fiber-optic networks spoke the important role that middle-mile connections have played in opening new opportunities on their home ground.

In Sweden, open access fiber-optic networks are commonplace, said Isak Finer, vice president of COS Systems, which designs software enabling cities and companies to build Gigabit Networks. Finer said he’s seeing more and more U.S. communities following the Swedish model.

Isak Finer, vice president of COS Systems, speaking about tools to facilitate open access broadband networks.

Isak Finer, vice president of COS Systems, speaking about tools to facilitate open access broadband networks.

James Hackett, the director of business operations for the Santa Cruz, California-based provider Cruzio Internet, agreed. His company, which has been reselling digital subscriber line and wireless internet services for 26 years, is seeking to entice the city and public-private partners into build a fiber network upon which Cruzio may offer services.

“Not only will this bring incredible economic benefits, but huge savings to the city itself,” said Hackett. Noting that Santz Cruz is one of the hubs of the University of California higher education system, he said a Gigabit Network could dramatically cut down on traffic.

“We want to keep 25,000 people from driving over the hill every day,” he said, referring to the mountain passage separating the beachside Santa Cruz from the still-sprawling Silicon Valley around San Jose.

He noted an upcoming vote before the Santa Cruz City Council on December 8. “We anticipate a two to three year build-out plan that will bring a Gigabit to the home for close to 100 percent of the city.”

For additional articles about the California broadband conferences, please visit: http://broadbandbreakfast.com/2015/11/community-broadband-center-leaders-to-gather-in-silicon-valley-for-anchornets-and-ntia-event-on-november-16-17/

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Community Broadband Center Leaders to Gather in Silicon Valley for AnchorNETS and NTIA Event on November 16-17

in Broadband's Impact/Gigabit Networks/National Broadband Plan/NTIA/Smart Cities by

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California, November 10, 2015 – Local broadband institutions seeking to leverage high-speed connectivity for the benefit of their broader communities will benefit from attending the inaugural AnchorNETS conference here on November 16 and 17.

Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn

Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn

Sponsored by the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the AnchorNETS conference is being hosted in conjunction with the federal government’s BroadbandUSA initiative on Tuesday, November 17.

The AnchorNETS event will be keynoted by former Gov. Pat Quinn, the Illinois Democrat responsible for completion of a nearly $100 million, four-year project to install 1,000 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure throughout Illinois.

“Governor Quinn’s role in bringing together state, federal and local resources, from private and public sectors, in the pursuit of improved digital literacy and internet connectivity to Illinois anchor institutions is a model for all public officials,” said John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB Coalition.

Other highlighted speakers include Evan Marwell, CEO of the Education Superhighway, and Susan Walters, senior vice president of the California Emerging Technology Fund, and Catherine Sandoval, California Public Utility Commissioner.

Evan Marwell, CEO, EducationSuperhighway

Evan Marwell, CEO, EducationSuperhighway

The AnchorNETS conference is designed to introduce leaders from community anchor institutions to partners, solution providers and capital resources that will help provide a strategic road map to bringing Gigabit connectivity to more and more communities.

The following day, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration hosts a regional broadband summit titled the “California Broadband Workshop.” The aim of this program is to share best practices and lesson learned from network buildouts and innovative digital inclusion programs.

Speakers include Anne Neville, director of the California Research Bureau at the California State Library (and formerly director of the NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative program), plus Doug Kinkoph, assistant administrator of the NTIA, and others and the agency.

Additional speakers include San Francisco Chief Information Officer Miguel Gamino, Michael Ort from the California Broadband Cooperative, and Jory Wolf, Chief Information Officer from the City of Santa Monica.

Both events are being hosted at the Computer History Museum at 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, California.

For the AnchorNets conference, here is the agenda and registration.

For the BroadbandUSA conference, here is the agenda and registration.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct list of speakers at the NTIA event.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Giants of Broadband: A Personal Remembrance of Scott DeGarmo

in Broadband's Impact by

Editor’s Note: The broadband world has lost three visionary giants over the past several months: Scott DeGarmo, Charles Benton and Don Samuelson. Each of these men had a significant impact on the world of advancing high-speed communications. Personally, each of them also had a significant impact on my professional career in broadband. I have had countless interactions with each of them over the course of many years.

This series in BroadbandBreakfast.com will provide a personal remembrances of each of them. Comments on the stories are welcome. Feel free to communicate with me via email at drew@broadbandcensus.com.

SALT LAKE CITY, August 31, 2015 – I learned of the passing of Broadband Communities CEO Scott DeGarmo from pancreatic cancer two weeks ago this morning. One of my colleagues on the board of the non-profit Rural Telecommunications Congress had shared the news. His death came just one month prior to his company’s next conference, “Fiber for the New Economy” in Lexington, Kentucky.

Scott DeGarmo

I immediately sent off my condolences — now joined with dozens of others on the Broadband Communities web site — to those in his company whom I have known and with whom I have interacted on many levels.

For example, many years ago I interviewed Broadband Communities Vice Chairman Hilda Legg when she was the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service during the administration of George W. Bush. I was a reporter for the National Journal Group in Washington. We talked at that time more than a decade ago about the vital importance of getting broadband to rural communities.

Going back even further, Broadband Communities Corporate Editor Steven Ross was a professor of computer-assisted reporting at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. This was in 1995-1996, during the infant days of the internet, when I was his student. At the time, all of us were just beginning to sense the impending implications that high-bandwidth connectivity would have for our economy and for our culture.

More recently, as practicing attorney working Of Counsel at Kirton McConkie in Salt Lake City, I’ve taken a hands-on role in helping state, municipal and rural broadband leaders to invest in Gigabit Networks. In January, our firm invited Broadband Communities Editor Masha Zager to participate in our webinar series on “How to Build Your Gigabit Network.” She did a stellar job outlining the world of community broadband networks.

For all of my interactions with the staff and others associated with Broadband Communities, it was clear that Scott DeGarmo was the silent but powerful force behind an impressive organization.

Hilda G. Legg

Steven Ross

Masha Zager

Over the course of more than a decade, he followed and led his industry to a revived and amplified vision of its possibilities. From a small gathering of an obscure line of work dubbed the “private cable business” (think of TV and internet services to multiple-dwelling units), his broadband summits have instead become wonderfully expansive celebrations of the fiber communications marketplace. Whenever I attended Broadband Communities, I found Scott there, shepherding along the growth of this industry.

The Early ‘Broadband Moment’

I met Scott through my friend and mentor Graham Richard, who now runs the Advanced Energy Economy. Graham, the former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, became an advocate for the possibilities that fiber-optic broadband brings to community economic development. After he concluded his term as mayor, he was an advisor and consultant to organizations with which I have worked, including BroadbandBreakfast.com and the Partnership for a Connected Illinois.

It was early 2008, and I had just launched BroadbandCensus.com, an early effort to collect and provide free information to the public about broadband speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition. President Bush’s Federal Communications Commission had refused to release this data from broadband providers. Our efforts in that year preceded what would become a significant push to increase knowledge where broadband was available, and who was providing it.

Scott graciously invited me to present at what was then known as the Broadband Properties conference, at a hotel near the Dallas airport. At that event, we unveiled our ‘Take the Broadband Census” data-collection form. You could begin to sense that bigger things were in store.

Scott saw that, and always attempted to bring the necessary people and organizations together to build up the broadband world.

The next year, in 2009, excitement in the internet industry was more pronounced. The conference was thriving in spite of a deep recession. In part, this was because there so many questions about which answers were needed. The administration of President Barack Obama was still in its early months, yet it was designing an ambitious broadband stimulus program. Its watchword was “shovel-ready:” Proposed projects that could be turned into immediate jobs-generators.

As I wrote at the time on BroadbandBreakfast.com:

Every year, the annual Broadband Properties conference, produced by Broadband Properties magazine, assembles those who literally build the innards of the nation’s fiber-optic infrastructure, the most advanced broadband and internet networks anywhere.

They hearken from the private cable industry, where many provided television service to the owners of multidwelling units real properties. They also come from the rural companies and communities that took risks in pioneering fiber investments long before larger companies, like Verizon Communications, woke up to its benefits.

Either way, these are the people that are, in the words of Fiber to the Home Council President Joe Savage, “in the dirt-moving industry.”

They include glass-makers, wire-splitters, radio frequency engineers, manufacturers of reinforced boxes and racks for digital switches and routers, and consultants to the equipment providers, carriers and local governments. Some are well-known, and some are invisible. They include Calix, CSI Digital, Design Nine, FlexOptics Networks, Foxcom, Light Bridgade, Hitachi Telecom, Motorola, Walker and Associates, among many others.

And with $7.2 billion of federal funds about to spent on “middle-mile” fiber-optic infrastructure, conference attendees were eager to learn of others’, and to pitch their own, “shovel-ready” projects.

Networking Broadband Connectivity for Illinois

The next phase of my career in broadband took me from the day-to-day journalism and events businesses (over the years, our Broadband Breakfast Club hosted more than 60 different Washington-based discussions on broadband policy and internet technology) to being the technology leader responsible for the State Broadband Initiative entity in the Land of Lincoln — the Partnership for a Connected Illinois.

At the invitation of then-Gov. Pat Quinn, I moved from Washington to Springfield, the state’s capital city, in February 2010. The job to be done was in building a non-profit/quasi-government startup, responsible both for broadband mapping and for community economic development. We were building the organization from scratch, albeit with significant support from the federal and state governments.

“I’m glad that our team of broadband experts is moving forward to help achieve the ambitious vision for a public, transparent map of technology infrastructure that President Obama and I share,” Quinn said at the time of my appointment.

In part because of my new responsibilities, I missed Scott’s 2010 summit. When I returned to the conference in 2011, 2012 and 2013, it had been rechristened Broadband Communities, and had moved to a better hotel in the exclusive Dallas suburb of Addison. Scott was always conscious of ensuring that the experience of attending the summit was as beneficial for everyone who attended.

Drew Clark at Partnership for a Connected Illinois

As the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, my focus at Scott’s events was less on reporting and persuading individuals to take the Broadband Census. I was instead working on behalf of Illinois projects, sharing best practices with those who were administering projects in other states, and understanding where fiber-optic technology was heading. With each successive year, Scott put together better and more impressive programs.

Personally, I was no longer all about broadband data. My efforts at building the Broadband Census in the early days of the “broadband moment” played some small role in stimulating a much more significant investment in broadband data: The $350 million through the State Broadband Initiatives, in 56 states and territories, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But at Broadband Illinois we were focused helping to build these networks. I began to see Scott’s Broadband Communities summit as a first-class opportunity for “networking” — of the human and not the fiber-optic variety.

Indeed, owing to Illinois’ success in obtaining funds for infrastructure investment (which was the lion’s share of the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds), our organization oversaw about $350 million in fiber-optic and wireless projects in Illinois. We also helped bridge regional divisions within Illinois, enhanced the economic development efforts of the Governor’s Broadband Deployment Council and connected communications providers and users of internet services. Later, we administered two trial programs for enhancing broadband adoption.

It was at this time that Scott introduced another innovation at Broadband Communities: The launch of the Economic Development Conference Series in fall 2012.

His first event was in Danville, Virginia. When Scott was selecting the location for his second event, in November 2013, he picked a venue in Illinois in south-suburban Chicagoland. Broadband Illinois became significantly involved in the planning and publicity for this event.

Among the fiber projects that our organization helped to highlight were the iFiber project, established under the Recovery Act at Northern Illinois University, as well as a separately-financed middle-mile fiber project implemented with state government fund by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association.

With this regional economic conference being located that year in Tinley Park, Illinois, this provided an opportunity to showcase the “Gigabit Communities Challenge” launched in February 2012 by Gov. Quinn.

In a piece about Onlight Aurora, published in advance of a panel discussion at the event, I wrote:

Just over a year ago, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced the first of four awards under the state’s “Gigabit Communities Challenge,” an effort to raise the bar on broadband speeds in the nation’s heartland.

Of the four awardees named thus far, the Gigabit Network created by Onlight Aurora here is perhaps the most advanced. This is owing to a unique public-private partnership in the state’s second-largest city….

But the example of Onlight Aurora provides an important window into the way Gigabit Networks can help a multiplicity of purposes. These include government cost-savings, traffic solutions, and economic development options for business retention and growth.

Scott continued to host these important regional events, holding the September 2014 event in Springfield, Massachusetts. As previously mentioned, the September 2015 event will be held in Lexington, Kentucky. You may register here for the event.

Partnering with the Rural Telecommunications Congress

I had an additional series of connections with Scott through my role as a board member of the Rural Telecommunications Congress, leading to my being asked to step up as president of that non-profit organization in April of this year.

The RTC is a non-profit organization that works with everyone to facilitate the development of a reliable and sustainable rural broadband ecosystem, and hence a strong future for rural America. Its roots date back more than 15 years, when a group of concerned citizens, local and state government officials, consultants, and others met under the aegis of the Aspen Institute in Colorado to discuss how the western states could benefit from the utilization of high speed broadband services.

Since 2002, the RTC has hosted events in locales including Des Moines, Iowa; Spokane, Washington; Lexington, Kentucky; Little Rock, Arkansas; Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont; Springfield, Illinois; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

These events have showcased the importance of a strong broadband infrastructure to eliminate the digital divide, enhance the quality of life in rural America and encourage broadband adoption and education in rural America.

But in 2010, our organization decided to team up with Scott’s Broadband Communities Summit and Broadband Communities Magazine, and we’ve enjoyed a remarkably productive partnership.

“Scott was an easy person to talk to and a good sounding board,” said Galen Updike, president of RTC from 2010-2013, the time that RTC began co-hosting events with Broadband Communities. “He adopted good ideas, such as the transition from the name ‘Broadband Properties’ to ‘Broadband Communities.’”

“Scott tried to bring the people to join with the vendors,” said Jane Smith Patterson, president of the RTC from 2013-2015. “It made what the vendors were doing more real, and it got the people in rural broadband more in touch with the vendors.”

In a press release from the RTC, I said that “The world of broadband has lost a giant with the passing of Scott DeGarmo. Broadband Communities has been instrumental in the current high profile of rural broadband issues.”

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As an example of the high-quality programming that Scott was instrumental in helping to facilitate, I’d point to the April 2015 program, “Connecting Communities Across America: Moving Rural America to Prosper through Broadband.” Each of the panel sessions from the event is online at the Rural Telecommunications Congress web site at http://www.ruraltelecon.org/2015-rtc-bbc-summit.html

That event in April was the first – and only – time that I’ve been to a Broadband Communities event without Scott being there, too. His illness was announced to the public there. Those of us who had worked with Hilda, Scott, Masha, plus Nancy McCain and others on the Broadband Communities team, knew that Scott remained deeply engaged in making that event the success that it was.

He is gone now, and those of us who remain working in broadband will miss his vision and his sense of where the industry was heading next.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Schools, Health and Libraries Conference a Vital Connection for Public Broadband

in Education/FCC/Health/Minority/NTIA/Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2015 – More than five years after the unveiling of the National Broadband Plan, policy-makers and on-the-ground-advocates seeking to build better broadband networks will convene here this week at the annual conference of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

The conference, “Enhancing Broadband Through Innovation, Investment and Inclusion,” has become the regular Washington gathering point for those engaged in public broadband initiatives.

Among the keynote and plenary sessions at this year’s conference include addresses by Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, former Virginia Gov. and Sen. George Allen, plus Mayor Jill Boudreau of Mount Vernon, Washington.

Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition Conference

Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition Conference

Mount Vernon is building a Gigabit Network in its community, and she’ll be joined by Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities, the new non-profit coalition seeking to encourage municipalities to enhance next-generation broadband connectivity through advanced networks.

With so national and municipal developments advancing municipal and public-private networks – together with fast-moving developments at the FCC concerning the eRate and the White House’s ConnectED initiative – SHLB has become an important destination for those entities often called “community anchor institutions.”

These schools, hospital and health clinic, libraries and public computing centers serve as an important resource to ensure greater connectivity to, and knowledge of, our digital economy.

A pre-conference session on Wednesday include a two moderated discussion of the Healthcare Connect Fund, led by Jeff Mitchell of Lukas, Nace, Gutierrez & Sachs; and Bill England of e-Copernicus.

Additionally, the FCC, the Commerce Department’s National  Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the newly-formed National Digital Inclusion Alliance will be hosting related events on Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday’s agenda includes addresses by Allen, Quinn, and an address on “Healthcare’s Invisible Strength” by David Hotchkiss of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Panel sessions will address developments in the eRate, wireless policy, ConnectED, Net Neutrality, municipal broadband, plus broadband research and planning.

Friday features a keynote by Clyburn, plus additional sessions on broadband adoption and digital inclusion. The closing plenary will feature Ray Timothy, CEO of the Utah Education and Telehealth Network and Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the Washington, DC, public library.

Created in 2009 to address the shortage of broadband for anchor institutions, the SHLB Coalition aims to organize these entities together with commercial companies and non-profit broadband providers to improve broadband connectivity for anchor institutions and their communities in all regions of the country. John Windhausen is the coalition’s executive director.

“Anchor institution personnel can train people about broadband services and technologies, thereby stimulating broadband usage and demand,” reads the SHLB Coalition mission and vision. “Furthermore, high-capacity ‘middle mile’ broadband networks serving community anchor institutions can be used as ‘jumping off points’ to serve surrounding residential and business consumers. Several studies show that building high-capacity broadband to community anchor institutions has a multiplier effect that generates tremendous economic growth for the community and the nation.”

Registration and agenda for the SHLB conference. The event is taking place at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.

Drew Clark: The Year of Community and Municipal Gigabit Broadband

in Broadband's Impact by

December 18, 2014 – While net neutrality captured Washington policy headlines, the most significant communications development in 2014 was the emergence of new and more viable approaches to building community and municipal Gigabit Networks.

A confluence of factors in the worlds of broadband, energy, transportation, manufacturing and civic engagement have underscored the need for next-generation internet networks. Evidence of this gathering momentum behind global Gigabit Cities include the high-profile emergence of public-private financing models and a growing network of high-bandwidth computing applications.

This year’s fight over net neutrality is not unrelated to the push for Gigabit Networks. The Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet proceeding is a battle over scarcity: The prioritization of traffic on lower-capacity networks. From the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision striking down FCC rules in January to President Obama’s decision to directly intervene in the new FCC proceeding, it’s been an all-consuming public battle.

But viewed from the vantage point of the future, the far more significant development will be the emergence of opportunities outside of Washington for high-capacity broadband networks. It’s a world in which cities and municipalities are playing the leadership role.

Smart Cities Equals Gigabit Global Cities

Take, as a recent example, this New York Times story from last week: “Copenhagen Lighting the Way to Greener, More Efficient Cities.”

Not once did this article mention the words “broadband” or even “internet.” And yet the piece was all about the “software and services for critical infrastructure to utilities and cities and [how technology companies are] helping design and operate the traffic and street lighting project here in Copenhagen.”

On a main artery into the city, truck drivers can see on smartphones when the next light will change. And in a nearby suburb, new LED streetlights brighten only as vehicles approach, dimming once they pass.

Aimed at saving money, cutting the use of fossil fuels and easing mobility, the installations are part of a growing wireless network of streetlamps and sensors that officials hope will help this city of roughly 1.2 million meet its ambitious goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.

Eventually, the network will serve other functions, like alerting the sanitation department to empty the trash cans and informing bikers of the quietest or fastest route to their destinations. It’s all made possible through an array of sensors embedded in the light fixtures that collect and feed data into software.

The Copenhagen smart city one example of how cities have recognized that information communications technology is a necessary part of the “plumbing” of modern life. The common-sense capabilities being deployed in Copenhagen demonstrate how cities see that they must engage in the innards of fiber-optic wires and wireless transceivers if they want to remain good steward of their public rights-of-way.

Indeed, the thinking behind the concept of a “smart city” has grown well businesses like Cisco, IBM or Siemens. There is now a percolating effort to probe the cost-saving, public safety and competitive advantages for cities:

  • The Brookings Institution’s “Global Cities Initiative,” a $10 million, five-year project launched in March 2012 with JPMorgan Chase, is aimed at strengthening regional economies and their role in the global marketplace.
  • The Atlantic Magazine’s CityLab.com (rebranded in May from its original title of The Atlantic Cities), is a new an editorial hub squarely focused on urban solutions to the issues and ideas facing the world’s metro areas and neighborhoods.
  • Susan Crawford’s and Stephen Goldsmith’s September book, “The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance.” They write: “A confluence of technology advancements now promises broad and constructive change in local government, altering everything from the way workers perform basic functions to the way citizens engage with government.”
  • The Global Cities Team Challenge, an effort championed by US Ignite in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, plus the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation. After its September kickoff, the challenge has been called “Shark Tank meets smart cities” — its an effort to pair up the high-bandwidth applications cultivated by US Ignite with funding from NIST to achieve civic ends. About $10 million in funding will be available for 6-10 projects, and applications are due January 21, 2015.

New Models for Municipal Broadband

The aborning effort to stimulate Gigabit Global cities isn’t just about faster internet. Indeed, that’s precisely the point. High-bandwidth broadband is not a good to be sought on its own. It is fundamental infrastructure upon which next-generation city managers — and next-generation business and social entrepreneurs — are coming to rely.

The most direct crystallization of our municipal broadband moment is the new non-profit coalition dubbed Next Century Cities. Launched less than two months ago in Santa Monica, it now boasts membership from 50 cities, representing 25 states. From Los Angeles to communities along the Pacific Northwest, from Lafayette in Cajun country to Chattanooga, and from patrician Boston to a city that got its start as a cow town, Kansas City, each of these 50 cities have different motivations and approaches to Gigabit Networks. But they agree on these six core principles:

  1. High-speed internet is necessary infrastructure.
  2. The internet is non-partisan.
  3. Communities must enjoy self-determination in selecting public, nonprofit, corporate or public-private solutions.
  4. High-speed internet is a community-wide endeavor.
  5. Meaningful competition drives progress.
  6. Cities can learn from the experiences of others as they build Gigabit Networks.

I was present at the Santa Monica launch of Next Century Cities. I’m excited that, increasingly, city managers aren’t afraid to take responsibility for what is traveling over their rights-of-way. I also recently listened to the three-and-a-half hour webcast of its November 18 field hearing, “Envisioning a Gigabit Future,” in Chattanooga. (It was time well spent!)

What’s important about Next Century Cities is that it represents a “big tent” approach to community broadband. For cities that want to bring Gigabit Networks to their communities, there are effectively four major routes, all of which are represented within the coalition:

  • The corporate model. Google Fiber’s launch in Kansas City has shaken up the tight telecom word of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications. When a city has confidence in a private provider’s promises in accessing rights-of-way, the corporate model can be hassle-free.
  • Non-profits and cooperatives. In many cases, co-ops and non-profits have been among the first to deploy fiber. Cleveland’s OneCommunity is terrific example of a non-profit community resource spurring on next-generation networks for its anchor institution and business tenants in Northeast Ohio.
  • Public-private partnerships. Although less well-known in the telecom space, public-private partnerships are the default model, world-over, for the construction of highways, tollways, ports and airports. This year has seen great innovation in using public-private partnership to build Gigabit Networks.
  • Municipal retail broadband. According to Broadband Communities magazine, more than 143 cities in the U.S. have some form of fiber-optic networks, many of which retail broadband services to city residents.

With the exception of using a corporate providers like Google or AT&T, each of the other three models leave room for open-access opportunities.

As I wrote in another context:

A public-private partnership is a way of leveraging government resources without incurring the expense of going to the capital markets and incurring more debt. Public-private partnerships also give governments a means of ensuring “asset performance,” since payments to the private entity are based on fulfillment and performance. Such normal burdens as labor issues, debt and managing costs fall to the private partner.

Under the public-private partnership model, municipalities have oversight responsibility, but no direct day-to-day role in the build-out and operations of the network. A public-private partner becomes the network operator and wholesaler, overseen by a public entity composed of participating municipalities, to ensure that the contractually agreed performance standards are achieved. The network remains an open access network, with the public-private partner’s role being maximization of competition between providers on the network. The cities retain ownership of the network assets, and the public-private partner takes operational responsibility for the network over a 30-year period, effectively leasing the network from the cities.

Under the public-private partnership/”open access” model, the network operator becomes the provider of the “fiber highway” that an existing or new entrant can use to deliver data, voice, video and other services to customers. This highway is open to any provider that wishes to use it, including the incumbents.

The emergence of new opportunities for entrepreneurs’ open access to Gigabit Networks is one of the most promising developments of the focus on fiber-enhanced Smart Cities.

Applications and Networking (the Human Variety)

An equally important point about municipal Gigabit broadband is the human networking that takes place in the creation of a Gigabit community. Beyond the infrastructure, how are consumers making use of much-expanded broadband capabilities?

This is the essence of Next Century Cities’ point number six: Collaboration benefits all. We have seen extensive public dialogues in Kansas City (because of Google Fiber), in Chattanooga (owing to EPB, the public electric utility turned broadband provider) in Danville, Virginia (through nDanville, the open-access fiber network), and elsewhere. These kinds of public broadband discussions are different from what we used to experience in the provider-centric broadband model of a decade ago.

On a personal level, I’ve seen the benefits of “Better Broadband, Better Lives” first-hand in rural and urban Illinois, where I led the Partnership for a Connected Illinois from 2010 to 2013; and since then in Utah, where I’ve continued to be involved in ensuring the fastest possible internet services for everyone.

In addition to our public mapping activities, Broadband Illinois actively promoted the opportunities that high-speed internet offers for jobs, education, energy efficiency, healthcare, public safety, agriculture and government. As the State Broadband Initiative entity for the land of Lincoln, we collected and published telecom maps and information, collaborated with internet providers and economic development officials for deployment, and educated individuals and organizations on how to effectively use broadband.

Among those educational effort including launching the Illinois Broadband Innovation Fund, which awarded 14 grants to entities using broadband in unique and innovative ways, and working with the Federal Communications Commission on one of the agency’s first broadband lifeline grants to rural Western and Southern Illinois. We also worked closely with Gov. Pat Quinn on his Gigabit Challenge Initiative — one of the first in the nation — and which was announced on February 1, 2012.

When Broadband Illinois held its first conference in Carbondale, in Southern Illinois, in June 2011, the president of Southern Illinois University declared the city to be a “broadband desert.” Yet last week Carbondale officially became a Gigabit city (and recently a member of Next Century Cities), with the launch of a Gigabit Network by Frontier Communication.

I speak of these sorts of educational and entrepreneurial gains in Illinois because of my knowledge and work in the state. These sorts of stories have been replicated throughout the nation over the past five years through the efforts of the State Broadband Initiative program. Yet with the national program coming to end in March of 2015, the question becomes: Who will help convene the public broadband dialogue both on infrastructure and on applications?

US Ignite and Next Century Cities are two important groups stepping in to fill the breach. There will certainly be others, too: Such as the Rural Telecommunications Congress, that works to ensure rural areas aren’t left out of benefits available to “next century cities.”

But the direction toward Gigabit Networks – and the leadership role being played by states and by municipalities – is truly positive. In 2014, for the first time, Gigabit Networks have become an undeniable force that has reached a tipping point.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club, the premier Washington forum advancing the conversation around broadband technology and internet policy. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com  and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors. Clark brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband: job creation, telemedicine, online learning, public safety, energy, transportation and eGovernment. 

Press Release: Kirton McConkie Expands New Telecom Practice with Addition of Technology Industry Lawyer Drew Clark

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Gigabit Networks/NTIA/Press Releases by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kevin Aschenbrenner

250-294-8431
kaschenbrenner@jaffepr.com

SALT LAKE CITY (Oct. 28, 2014) – Kirton McConkie PC is pleased to announce that Drew Clark has joined as of counsel in the firm’s Telecommunications Practice Group. He joins shareholder David J. Shaw in this new practice area for the firm, which focuses on assisting state and local governments in deploying broadband infrastructure to support economic development.

Mr. Clark has spent his career working in the technology industry as both a lawyer and journalist, and is known as a pioneer in the broadband sector. He founded the Broadband Breakfast Club, Washington DC’s premier monthly forum on broadband. An early advocate for better broadband data, he worked with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce on a prototype model for the National Broadband Map. Mr. Clark served as assistant director of George Mason University School of Law’s Information Economy Project, which brought telecom policy into the realm of law and economics.

Under Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Mr. Clark led a combined federal and state effort of more than $350 million in fiber-optic and wireless infrastructure investments. The partnership bridged regional divisions within Illinois, enhanced the economic development efforts of the Broadband Deployment Council and connected communications providers and users of Internet services. This led to the launch of the Illinois Broadband Innovation Fund and the FCC awarding one of its first broadband lifeline grants to rural Western and Southern Illinois.

“We are pleased to welcome Drew to the firm and to our telecom group,” said Mr. Shaw. “Drew is known nationally for his work in telecom, particularly as an advocate for broadband on behalf of state and local governments, and we know his experience will be an asset for our clients.”

Kirton McConkie attorneys are active around the country on issues affecting government broadband projects at the state and local level. They recently served as speakers at the 2014 Broadband Communities Conference and worked in support of the Next Century Cities event held in Santa Monica on October 20.

Mr. Clark’s practice specializes in information technology, telecommunications, intellectual property, public utilities and contract drafting and negotiations. He also works with state, municipal and rural broadband leaders to capture broadband benefits of job creation, telemedicine, online learning, public safety, energy, transportation and eGovernment. Mr. Clark holds a J.D. from George Mason University School of Law, an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a B.A. (with honors) from Swarthmore College.

About the Kirton McConkie Telecommunications Practice Group

Kirton McConkie enhances state and local governments’ ability to deploy broadband infrastructure in their economic development activities. We represent municipalities, inter-local entities and cooperatives from an exploratory phase, through bid processes and beyond.

Additionally, we assist clients as they construct and operate their high-speed broadband networks by negotiating with public-private partnerships. We know the players in the broadband community, the financial options available to cities and local governments and the best practices for building Gigabit Networks.

Our experience is demonstrated by the amount of financing we have placed for telecommunications infrastructure projects—we are among the top in the nation.

For more information, please visit http://www.kmclaw.com/industries-Telecom-Broadband.html.

About Kirton McConkie PC

Kirton McConkie is a full service commercial law firm with 140 attorneys focusing on commercial litigation, business, real estate, employment, First Amendment, immigration, intellectual property, tax, estate planning and family law. For more information, please visit http://www.kmclaw.com.

Connect Nevada Broadband Summit on Nov. 18 to Explore Broadband in Education

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November 15, 2013 – Nevada has only two metropolitan areas (Las Vegas and Reno), 80 percent of its land owned by the federal government, and no fiber-optic wires that connect the two cities, said the head of the state’s non-profit broadband initiative.

A deeply rural demography and highly remote geography present some tough obstacles for Connect Nevada, the broadband mapping and planning initiative under the federal government’s broadband initiative.

On Monday, November 18, the group is hosting its third annual broadband summit, with the theme of this year’s event centered around educational uses of technology, said Lindsey Niedzielski, program manager for Connect Nevada.

The summit is being organized around the role of social media in educational settings, the use of tablet and interactive devices in classrooms — often dubbed “1:1 education” for the ideal ration of devices to students — and the broadband capacity needs of higher education.

Headlining the event will be Blair Levin, chief architect of the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan in 2010, who has spearheaded the Gig.U initiative.

The Gig.U initiative aims to promote high-speed broadband service the communities around universities. It has seen its first successes through the partnerships between the University of Chicago, and the University of Washington, and Gigabit Squared. Gigabit Squared’s project on the south side of Chicago was also spurred on by funding from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s Gigabit Community Challenge.

Also featured at the Connect Nevada program will be Anne Neville, director of the State Broadband Initiative program of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration; and Dale Erquiaga, the Nevada state superintendent of public instruction.

Information and registration for the event, to be hosted at the University of Nevada in Reno, is available at http://www.connectnv.org/broadband-summit.

 

Obama Administration Continues Follow-through on Broadband Infrastructure Executive Order

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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.

Gigabit Fever Spreads from the Heartland Across the Nation; Giving Gigabit Credit Where Credit is Due

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WASHINGTON, May 3, 2013 – It’s springtime across the country, the flowers are blooming, and Gigabit fever must be in the air.

Within the past month, several major companies and communities have announced plans for Gigabit-level deployments within their communities. Several major conferences have featured the Gigabit theme, including the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition event here on Thursday and Friday.

Even the Federal Communications Commission has gotten in on the act: one of the last major initiatives of outgoing agency Chairman Julius Genachowski was the workshop on “Gigabit Community Broadband Networks,” on March 27, 2013.

As the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, the statewide non-profit entity responsible for promoting internet engagement and broadband planning in the Land of Lincoln, we’re very heartened by this development.

Our governor, Gov. Pat Quinn, has been at the forefront of the benefits of better broadband for many, many years.

When it comes to promoting advanced internet connectivity, many public servants talk about the importance of Gigabit-level connectivity. Gov. Quinn has acted. Well over a year ago, Quinn announced the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge in his 2012 “State of the State” Address.

“Through this challenge, we want our neighborhoods to become Gigabit communities with Internet connections more than 100 times faster than today,” Quinn declared in the February 1, 2012, address. “Our goal is to build smart communities that will foster the job engines of the future.” The challenge allocated up to $6 million in funds for communities seeking an award.

The next step was an open and public competition, in which communities and providers were eligible to put forward applicants that would serve at least 1,000 end users to an ultra-high-speed broadband network. Applicants for the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge were encouraged to demonstrate ways to improve economic opportunities, foster economic development through the expansion of “smart communities,” increase the number of residents with college degrees, connect health care professionals with their patients, and position Illinois’ universities to continue leading the nation in research, innovation, and technology.

By the June 30, 2012, deadline, Illinois had received 40 applications, from communities and providers, for Gigabit connectivity. Thus far, three winners have been announced: Gigabit Squared on the South Side of Chicago — in a project that proposes to serve nine neighborhoods across the community; the City of Aurora, about an hour west of Chicago; and the City of Evanston/Northwest University, just north of Chicago. Additional award-winners have yet to be announced.

What does the activity in Illinois say about the viability of Gigabit connectivity?

Whether a proposed Gigabit project is on the metropolitan scale (as with Google Fiber’s builds in Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO) or within a portion of a city (as with Gigabit Squared’s venture on Chicago’s South Side), Gigabit connectivity is the next major leap in broadband access.

Over the past four years, broadband speeds and availability have been steadily increasing. The maps that we produce at Broadband Illinois, at http://broadbandillinois.org/maps, and which feed into the National Broadband Map, demonstrate substantial progress on this front. This is due to the advanced DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems, to increased penetrated and speeds of the wireless LTE standard, to rural-friendly wireless internet service providers, and to co-ops and telecom companies that have been continuing updating their fiber plants.

Now, Gigabit-level connectivity is the next major step.

Google Fiber drew headlines for this issue through its “Think Big With a Gig” campaign in 2009. That led first to the selection of Kansas City.

Also highlighting the importance of Gigabit-level connectivity has been Blair Levin, the former director of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan in 2010. He’s taken the ambitious goals of that plan and worked to translate them into to action through the Gig.U. consortium of 37 universities seeking Gigabit-level connectivity in their surrounding communities.

Now, it seems like everyone is getting in on the act. On April 9, 2013, Google announced that Austin, Texas, was its next stop.  A few hours later, AT&T announced that it, too, would build Gigabit-level service in Austin. A little more than a week later, Provo, Utah, was in the spotlight. And just this week, the telecommunications company CenturyLink announced that it will tee up Gigabit service in Omaha, Nebraska.

All of this is a great testament to bringing the most advanced-level connectivity to cities throughout the State of Illinois, and to our country.

Google asked us to Think Big With a Gigabit. Gov. Quinn in Illinois took the next step in fostering the smart communities that will be the places for investment, jobs, and the commerce of the future.

Now, as Gigabit fever spreads across the nation, it’s time for us think even bigger.

For governors and mayors and businesses across the country, and for the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission: Let’s make high-capacity bandwidth the strategic advantage that America needs to tap into the talents of our communities, our manufacturers, our students and our entrepreneurs.

Drew Clark is the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, a non-profit organization based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter. He brings experts and practitioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. As the designed State Broadband Initiative entity, Broadband Illinois (officially known as the Partnership for a Connected Illinois) receives funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the State of Illinois, as well as through private sector donations.

The Year in Broadband, 2012: BroadbandBreakfast’s Guide to the Top 10 Events

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus/Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA/Rural Utilities Service/Wireless by

December 18, 2012 – The year 2012 has provided significant progress in broadband within the United States. Whether through policy developments, or through technologies advancing the rate of internet speeds, the business case for making use of those higher speeds is also progressing in a meaningful way.

It’s almost as if the presidential and other federal elections – dominated as they were by issues other than broadband and technology – allowed the breathing room for practitioners, in Washington and outside of Washington, to make progress on bringing the nation better broadband.

Here’s the list of the 10 most significant events for broadband. We’ll soon follow up with 10 broadband developments to watch for in 2013.

1. Revisions to the Universal Service Fund.
At the end of 2011, the Federal Communications Commission began a major overhaul of the decades-old Universal Service Fund. Through an order of more than 700 pages, the agency created three major new funds: the Connect America Fund, the Mobility Fund, and a much smaller Remote Areas Fund, for extremely rural areas, particularly in Alaska. Throughout 2012, the FCC undertook Phase I of both the Connect America Fund and the Mobility Fund. The Mobility Fund has been particularly successful. In September, the FCC held its first “reverse auction” for $300 million in subsidies for mobile broadband: awards went to the mobile providers willing to serve the most unserved census blocks at the lowest prices. By contrast, the Connect America Fund, for wireline providers, was undersubscribed; over the summer the FCC awarded $115 million to large so-called “price cap” carriers, including CenturyLink and Frontier. The agency had been looking to spend $300 million; it will soon begin the process for $185 million of awards in Phase 2.

2. LTE Reaches the Mass Market.
Even though major wireless carriers such as Verizon Communications began promoting its fourth-generation wireless standard dubbed LTE (for long-term evolution) for more than two years, in 2012 LTE became a reality for middle America. Verizon has been quicker than AT&T, but AT&T has expanded more rapidly over the past year. From November 2011, when Verizon Wireless boasted coverage in 190 markets to AT&T’s 15 markets, one year later Verizon Wireless offers service in 441 markets, serving 250 million people. AT&T now offers 190 markets, and is available to 150 million people. Plus, with the launch of the Apple iPad 3 in March of 2012, the first Apple device with LTE technology, consumers could now obtain real-world download and upload speed in excess of 10 megabits per second. For the first time it begins to be possible to envision wireless as a substitute for DSL or cable connectivity, provided that consumers adapt to metered charges for mobile data consumption.

3. Gigabit Fiber Initiatives at the Local Level.
In Illinois, Gov. Patrick Quinn (D) announced the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge in the State of the State address on February 1, 2012. The challenge offered $6 million in funding to broadband companies and public-private partnerships proposing gigabit-level connectivity to at least 1,000 residents within their community. Illinois joined a number of other locations, including Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Lafayette, Louisiana, with “big broadband” projects designed to bring economic enhancement through super-fast connectivity. Following a competition which that spurred 40 applicants in Illinois, the first two Gigabit awards – to Gigabit Squared, the University of Chicago and several neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago; and to Aurora, Illinois – were announced on October 16.

4. DOCSIS 3.0 Rolls Out Nationwide.
Early in the year, cable giant Comcast announced that it had completed its DOCSIS 3.0 expansion for its entire footprint in the United States.  DOCSIS 3.0 is the name for the next version of cable modem technology. The move brings the possibility of promised speeds of 100 megabits per second to all of Comcast’s 52 million household subscribers, although consumers need to subscribe to them. Additionally, consumers need DOCSIS 3.0 hardware in order to take the service, and somewhere between 43 percent and 77 percent of the nation’s cable subscribers had that upgrade. The cable industry’s push for DOCSIS 3.0 stands in contrast with Verizon’s decision to stop the expansion of its Fiber Optic Service and AT&T’s November 7, 2012, announcement that it will begin to favor investments in wireless technology over uVerse investments. Traditional telephone giants may be leaving the wireline field to their former cable competitors.

5. Gig.U. and Gigabit Squared Strike Deals.
One of the most creative of broadband initiatives over the past several years is Gig.U, or the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project. The goal is to leverage the bandwidth needs of the communities around world-class universities. Think of it as an ultra-high-speed form of “aggregating demand.” Spearheaded by Blair Levin, chief architect of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan of March 2010, Gig.U. has assembled 37 world-class universities seeking to entice investment by major and new telecom entrants. In May, the consortium announced a $200 million commitment from Ohio-based Gigabit Squared, promising to build infrastructure in six of the 37 communities. The first to be announced was on the south Side of Chicago, in partnership with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s Gigabit Challenge, and the second was announced last week, with the University of Washington and the city of Seattle, Washington.

6. Google Fiber Goes Live.
The original big new entrant to the fiber community was none other than search engine giant Google. Way back in February 2010, in the midst of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Google announced a competition to build gigabit connectivity. The competition, dubbed by some a “third round” of the federal stimulus, following the two-stage process followed by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, generated 1,100 applications. Ultimately, selected cities were Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. The first fibers there went live July 2012. For $70/month, consumers are eager, and companies are chomping to envision the attention and innovation associated with mass-market gigabit connectivity.

7. U.S. IGNITE Catches Fire.
Fiber developments like FiOS, GigabitSquared and Google sometimes prompt the following question: if consumers aren’t making use of 25 megabits per second now, why would anyone need 40 times that speed? The national non-profit U.S. IGNITE aims to provide an answer to that question. Seeded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. IGNITE seeks to build the business case for these highest-bandwidth applications. In an Executive Order issued in June, the White House put its stamp of approval on the program, and said that it would help “create a national network of communities and campuses with ultra-fast, programmable broadband services, operating at speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. This network will become a test-bed for designing and deploying next-generation applications to support national priorities.”

8. Connect2Compete Gets Real.
While U.S. IGNITE works on promoting broadband on the ultra-high-speed scale, another national non-profit, Connect2Compete, is beginning to hit its stride in promoting what broadband can do for all Americans, including low-income individuals who lack money, computer equipment, and digital skills necessary to tap into what the internet can offer. The basic concept is for foundations like the Instituto Carlos Slim, the Knight Foundation and the Wasserman Foundation to partner with computer and software companies like GoodPC and Microsoft, and with training entities, to connect consumers with broadband providers. Predominantly cable-industry led, the initiative also provides a model for revamping the FCC’s Lifeline/Linkup program of the Universal Service Fund.

9. Exede Excedes Expectations.
To some fanfare at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2012, ViaSat, which bought satellite broadband provider WildBlue in 2009, unveiled its new service, Exede. With $400 million in a new satellite, plus ground stations and terrestrial fiber networks, the company wants to change the image, and the expectations associated with, satellite broadband. Not to be outdone, HughesNet Gen4 has also upped its increased speeds to 15 Mbps. While it remains to be seen whether rural America will adopt, the new satellite services provide new options for areas without access to fiber, cable or wireless broadband services.

10. The Chicago Broadband Challenge.
On September 24, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – the first Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama – melded the importance of broadband with his top priority investments. Elected as mayor in February 2011, his broadband challenge invited the public and providers to participate with ideas and insight as to how Chicago can tap into existing broadband infrastructure and potential uses for future expansion of broadband access. In an interview on the program, Chicago Chief Technology Officer John Tolva highlighted the need to drive business broadband with lower prices.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club, the premier Washington forum advancing the conversation around broadband technology and internet policy. You can find him on  and Twitter. He founded BroadbandCensus.com, and he brings experts and practitioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. He’s doing that now as Executive Director for Broadband Illinois, based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield.

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