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Google Shakes Up Broadband Landscape With Fiber Build Initiative

WASHINGTON, February 10, 2010 – Google shook up the broadband world on Wednesday with the announcement, on its blog, that it plans to offer super-fast broadband, at speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second, to up to 500,000 homes.

Google framed its entrance into the marketplace to deploy fiber-optic services as a “testbed” to understand more about the way that consumers and businesses use internet applications when truly high-speed services are available.

“We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections,” said Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly, project managers at Google. “We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

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WASHINGTON, February 10, 2010 – Google shook up the broadband world on Wednesday with the announcement, on its blog, that it plans to offer super-fast broadband, at speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second, to up to 500,000 homes.

Google framed its entrance into the marketplace to deploy fiber-optic services as a “testbed” to understand more about the way that consumers and businesses use internet applications when truly high-speed services are available.

“We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections,” said Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly, project managers at Google. “We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

“Imagine sitting in a rural health clinic, streaming three-dimensional medical imaging over the web and discussing a unique condition with a specialist in New York,” the post continued. “Or downloading a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes. Or collaborating with classmates around the world while watching live 3-D video of a university lecture.”

Additionally, Google said wanted to understand and share lessons about the deployment of fiber-to-the-home networks, and that Google’s fiber networks will be “open access” network.

That last point puts Google’s approach to broadband on a collision course with the major network providers, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications, who oppose Google’s efforts to impose “network neutrality” rules upon broadband providers.

Reactions from Carriers and the FCC

Major broadband providers, including Verizon and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, downplayed the significance of the announcement.

“The internet ecosystem is dynamic and competitive, and it’s delivering great benefits to consumers,” said Verizon spokesman David Fish. “Google’s expansion of its networks to enter the access market is another new paragraph in this exciting story.”

“We look forward to learning more about Google’s broadband experiment in the handful of trial locations they are planning,” said Brian Dietz, vice president of communications for NCTA.

“The cable industry has invested $161 billion over the past 13 years to build a nationwide broadband infrastructure that is available to 92 percent of U.S. homes, and we will continue to invest billions more to continually improve the speed and performance of our networks and provide tens of millions of consumers with the best possible broadband experience,” he said.

Other officials, including Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, were more effusive: “Big broadband creates big opportunities,” Genachowski said in a statement.

“This significant trial will provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed Internet apps, devices, and services,” Genachowski continued. “The FCC’s National Broadband Plan will build upon such private-sector initiatives and will include recommendations for facilitating and accelerating greater investment in broadband, creating jobs and increasing America’s global competitiveness.”

Google’s entrance into the fiber access market comes at time that the Obama administration is in the midst of handing out checks, as part of its $7.2 billion broadband stimulus, to help build broadband into unserved and underserved communities. Fiber-optic services are among the major beneficiaries, among the projects announced thus far.

Additionally, the FCC’s broadband plan is being finalized, and is due to Congress on March 17.

In a separate post, Google Washington Telecom and Media Council Rick Whitt said that the announcement built its recommendation, as part of the FCC’s national broadband plan, that the agency “should build ultra high-speed broadband networks as testbeds in several communities across the country, to help learn how to bring faster and better broadband access to more people.”

Whitt said, “We thought it was important to back up our policy recommendation with concrete action, so now we’ve decided to build an experimental network of our own.”

Whitt also compared the project to Google’s advocacy for free Wi-Fi networks – including its own, public, Mountain View, Calif.-based network – as well as seeking “open access” within the 700 Megahertz band of radio frequencies, and seeking to pipe broadband over the vacant television channels currently allocated to television broadcasters.

“We plan to incorporate the policies we’ve been advocating for in areas like network neutrality and privacy protection,” said Whitt. “Even on a small scale, building an experimental network will also raise other important legal and policy issues, from local environmental law to rights-of-way, so we’ll be working closely with communities, public officials, and other stakeholders to make sure we get this right.”

Many non-profit groups also praised the announcement.

“Google’s proposed experiment with building ultra-fast, open broadband pipelines in a handful of communities follows a trail already blazed by Verizon’s FiOS network, which has fiber optic cables capable of speeds comparable to what Google proposes,” said Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press.

“The FCC should use these examples to set forward-looking goals for the future of broadband throughout the United States. In the coming years, all Americans should have access to a world-class broadband network,” said Scott.

Markham Erickson, Executive Director of the Open Internet Coalition, stated: “An ultrafast and open broadband will not only provide a new and exciting platform for the next generation of Internet services and apps, but will hopefully inject new life into the extinct third party ISP marketplace.” Google is also a member of the coalition.

“Google’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network sets a new standard for speed and transparency,” said Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative of the New America Foundation.

“The network should have open, symmetrical architecture that facilitates high-speed communication for users within the network, including schools, hospitals and the local government and data collection to spur Internet research,” said Meinrath. “The benefits of one Gigabit-per-second connectivity are not maximized simply by getting data in and out of the community, but by creating vibrant digital commons that supports applications, resources, and communication within the local network.”

There are strong operational ties between Google and the New America Foundation. Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and CEO of Google, is also Chairman of the New America Foundation, and has given more than $1 million to the non-profit group.

Additionally, the foundation is one of the key players in the Measurement Lab consortium, founded by Google, New America and PlanetLab at Princeton University.

Measurement Lab was launched in 2009. Like the BroadbandCensus.com speed test and user-generated survey, Measurement Lab allows individuals to diagnose their internet connections using Internet2’s open-source Network Diagnostic Tool.

Independent observers also praised the Google fiber initiative.

“One of the really tremendous impacts of Google’s announcement is that it hopefully transforms our national conversation,” said Joanne Hovis, president of Columbia Telecommunications Corp. “When a company of this stature, that understands technology the way Google does, establishes a symmetrical Gigabit as the standard for broadband all the way to the home and business, it hopefully enables a broader conversation about the need for big bandwidth.”

Hovis continued: “Other than the open municipal fiber-to-the-home networks, this is the first significant foray into open access over fiber, and will serve as an incredibly important demonstration of the technical and financial feasibility of enabling competition through openness.” CTC is an engineering company that has supported a number of fiber-optic developments.

Said Danielle Coffey, vice president of government affairs for the Telecommunications Industry Association: “TIA members, and the public, will surely benefit from Google’s initiative. As the manufacturers and suppliers of broadband platforms and broadband-enabled products and services, we are pleased to see added competition and increased investment in our nation’s next-generation infrastructure.”

Tonya Rideout, acting executive director of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, also praised the initiative: “NATOA and its members are pleased to see Google’s significant commitment to working with localities to take steps toward solving the nation’s broadband deficit.”

“Having provided high quality, high speed Internet service to Rural America for the past five years, IBEC applauds Google’s recognition that rural America needs and wants optimum, high speed broadband service,” said Alyssa Clemsen Roberts, government affairs coordinator for the International Broadband Electronic Communications, Inc., which provides broadband over power lines.

“IBEC continues to strive to provide more access at higher speeds and we look forward to working with Google and other technology leaders in serving rural America,” she said.

As part of its announcement, Google issued a formal Request for Information from local communities, and from individual residents. The internet giant seeks to enlist local officials and individuals in selecting the communities that will be the recipients of the Google Gigabit networks.

Responses may be offered to Google until March 26, 2010, and the communities that Google selects will be announced later this year, said Google.

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

Health

FCC Proposes Notification Rules for 988 Suicide Hotline Lifeline Outages

The proposal would ensure providers give ‘timely and actionable information’ on 988 outages.

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Photo via Health and Human Services

WASHINGTON, January 26, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted a proposal to require operators of the 988 mental health crisis line to report outages, which would “hasten service restoration and enable officials to inform the public of alternate ways to contact the 988 Lifeline.”

The proposal would ensure providers give “timely and actionable information” on 988 outages that last at least 30 minutes to the Health and Human Services’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the 988 Lifeline administrator, and the FCC.

The commission is also asking for comment on whether cable, satellite, wireless, wireline and interconnected voice-over-internet protocol providers should also be subject to reporting and notification obligations for 988 outages.

Other questions from the commission include costs and benefits of the proposal and timelines for compliance, it said.

The proposal would align with similar outage protocols that potentially affect 911, the commission said.

The notice comes after a nationwide outage last month affected the three-digit line for hours. The line received over two million calls, texts, and chat messages since it was instituted six months ago, the FCC said.

The new line was established as part of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law in 2020.

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Health

FCC Eliminates Use of Urban-Rural Database for Healthcare Telecom Subsidies

The commission said the database that determined healthcare subsidies had cost ‘anomalies.’

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WASHINGTON, January 26, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission adopted a measure Thursday to eliminate the use of a database that determined the differences in telecommunications service rates in urban and rural areas that was used to provide funding to health care facilities for connectivity.

The idea behind the database, which was adopted by the commission in 2019, was to figure out the cost difference between similar broadband services in urban and rural areas in a given state so the commission’s Telecom Program can subsidize the difference to ensure connectivity in those areas, especially as the need for telehealth technology grows.

But the commission has had to temporarily provide waivers to the rules due to inconsistencies with how the database calculated cost differences. The database included rural tiers that the commission said were “too broad and did not accurately represent the cost of serving dissimilar communities.”

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel gave an example at Thursday’s open meeting of the database calculating certain rural services being cheaper than in urban areas, when the denser latter areas are generally less expensive.

As such, the commission Thursday decided to revert the methods used to determine Telecom Program support to before the 2019 database order until it can determine a more sustainable method. The database rescission also applies to urban cost determinations.

“Because the Rates Database was deficient in its ability to set adequate rates, we find that restoration of the previous rural rate determination rules, which health care providers have continued to use to determine rural rates in recent funding years under the applicable Rates Database waivers, is the best available option pending further examination in the Second Further Notice, to ensure that healthcare providers have adequate, predictable support,” the commission said in the decision.

Healthcare providers are now permitted to reuse one of three rural rates calculations before the 2019 order: averaging the rates that the carrier charges to other non-health care provider commercial customers for the same or similar services in rural areas; average rates of another service provider for similar services over the same distance in the health care provider’s area; or a cost-based rate approved by the commission.

These calculations are effective for the funding year 2024, the commission said. “Reinstating these rules promotes administrative efficiency and protects the Fund while we consider long-term solutions,” the commission said.

The new rules are in response to petitions from a number of organizations, including Alaska Communications; the North Carolina Telehealth Network Association and Southern Ohio Health Care Network; trade association USTelecom; and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“The FCC listened to many of our suggestions, and we are especially pleased that the Commission extended the use of existing rates for an additional year to provide applicants more certainty,” John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition, said in a statement.

Comment on automating rate calculation

The commission is launching a comment period to develop an automated process to calculate those rural rates by having the website of the Universal Service Administrative Company – which manages programs of the FCC – “auto-generate the rural rate after the health care and/or service provider selects sites that are in the same rural area” as the health care provider.

The commission is asking questions including whether this new system would alleviate administrative burdens, whether there are disadvantages to automating the rate, and whether there should be a challenge process outside of the normal appeals process.

The Telecom Program is part of the FCC’s Rural Health Care program that is intended to reduce the cost of telehealth broadband and telecom services to eligible healthcare providers.

Support for satellite services

The commission is also proposing that a cap on Telecom Program funding for satellite services be reinstated. In the 2019 order, a spending cap on satellite services was lifted because the commission determined that costs for satellite services were decreasing as there were on-the-ground services to be determined by the database.

But the FCC said costs for satellite services to health care service providers has progressively increased from 2020 to last year.

“This steady growth in demand for satellite services appears to demonstrate the need to reinstitute the satellite funding cap,” the commission said. “Without the constraints on support for satellite services imposed by the Rates Database, it appears that commitments for satellite services could increase to an unsustainable level.”

Soon-to-be health care providers funding eligibility

The FCC also responded to a SHLB request that future health care provider be eligible for Rural Health Care subsidies even though they aren’t established yet.

The commission is asking for comment on a proposal to amend the RHC program to conditionally approve “entities that are not yet but will become eligible health care providers in the near future to begin receiving” such program funding “shortly after they become eligible.”

Comments on the proposals are due 30 days after it is put in the Federal Register.

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Digital Inclusion

Broadband Breakfast Interview With Michael Baker’s Teraira Snerling and Samantha Garfinkel

Digital Equity provisions are central to state broadband offices’ plans to implement the bipartisan infrastructure law.

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Digital Equity provisions are central to state broadband offices’ plans to implement the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grant program under the bipartisan infrastructure law.

In this interview with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, Michael Baker International Broadband Planning Consultants Teraira Snerling and Samantha Garfinkel go into detail about the role of Digital Equity Act plans in state broadband programs.

Michael Baker International, a leading provider of engineering and consulting services, including geospatial, design, planning, architectural, environmental, construction and program management, has been solving the world’s most complex challenges for over 80 years.

Its legacy of expertise, experience, innovation and integrity is proving essential in helping numerous federal, state and local navigate their broadband programs with the goal of solving the Digital Divide.

The broadband team at Michael Baker is filling a need that has existed since the internet became publicly available. Essentially, Internet Service Providers have historically made expansions to new areas based on profitability, not actual need. And pricing has been determined by market competition without real concern for those who cannot afford service.

In the video interview, Snerling and Garfinkel discuss how, with Michael Baker’s help, the federal government is encourage more equitable internet expansion through specific programs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The company guides clients to incorporate all considerations, not just profitability, into the project: Compliance with new policies, societal impact metrics and sustainability plans are baked into the Michael Baker consultant solution so that, over time, these projects will have a tremendous positive impact.

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