Connect with us

Expert Opinion

An Organized Broadband System at the State Level

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2010 – The elements of an organized broadband system at the state level will vary depending upon geographic and economic characteristics. Urban and more populous areas will require middle-mile infrastructure to serve larger institutions, while existing last mile coverage may be adequate. Secondary and rural markets may require less extensive institutional capacity, while last mile coverage remains unacceptable.

Published

on

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2010 – The elements of an organized broadband system at the state level will vary depending upon geographic and economic characteristics. Urban and more populous areas will require middle-mile infrastructure to serve larger institutions, while existing last mile coverage may be adequate. Secondary and rural markets may require less extensive institutional capacity, while last mile coverage remains unacceptable.

The Federal BTOP and BIP funding programs, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and numerous state programs confirm that demand exists for enhanced broadband in the overall areas of government, public safety, education, health care and business. This organic process is truly evolving, and much is being learned in the process of achieving the ongoing objective of adequate broadband capacity. Part of the challenge is to ultimately establish an “Organized System” which will address the disparate factions involved in this process. If the NBP’s goal of reaching a first-generation network is to be realized, much is to be accomplished.

Statewide Institutions for Implementing Broadband Plans

Round Two of the BTOP and BIP programs has made a clear distinction between middle-mile and last-mile. Irrespective of the motivation behind this distinction, it illustrates the fact that many institutional users consistently require large amounts of bandwidth, which are often delivered via proprietary networks.

In virtually every state the largest single user is the state itself. Most have an existing Department of Internet Technology, or other agency responsible for overseeing and administering the state’s IT requirements. Issues in terms of broadband include:

  • A network adequate to connect required state facilities, including government buildings, police, fire, and other essential governmental services.
  • Whether the network is owned or leased, long-term agreements to purchase bandwidth must be negotiated and entered into.
  • A facility adequate to accommodate required data storage, continuity of services and disaster recovery.

The challenge facing many states is to extend the state network to reach essential facilities in rural areas. Such areas are less cost effective to serve by fiber, particularly in the near term. Other technologies, including microwave and satellite may be required to provide adequate bandwidth within a reasonable timeframe.

The demand for bandwidth in education is expanding exponentially. There clearly exists a correlation between schools with adequate broadband capability and those without, in terms of academic performance. Universities, colleges, community colleges, high schools and elementary schools all have broadband requirements.

As with the states, educational institutions have network, purchasing and data storage needs. Also with respect to education, libraries have their own unique requirements. Libraries will continue to be the source of important educational and other vital information. These institutions clearly a require increased broadband capacity as well as improved Internet access facilities for end users.

Health care facilities also have extensive broadband requirements. “Telehealth” involves the use of medical information exchanged from one community to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.

A statewide proprietary network is required, which interconnects hospitals and other health care facilities. The bandwidth requirements are significant, particularly with the condition that all health care records be digital by 2015. Unique data center services are also required to manage such a network.

Naturally, the business community will continue to have broadband requirements. Although funded privately, the state must ensure that adequate bandwidth is accessible, and that a broadband-friendly environment exists.

Last-Mile Requirements

Unfortunately, the last-mile or end user component has been somewhat overlooked thus far in the broadband stimulus process. Relegated to the BIP program, there is currently less federal money available to extend access in rural and underserved areas. In spite of the real potential for wireless broadband, such as WiMAX, the vast majority of last-mile funding went to telephone companies. This situation is ironic in that the original primary purpose behind the stimulus programs was to increase the percentage of homes with adequate access to broadband capacity.

As with institutional users, the state clearly has a responsibility to address unacceptable last-mile levels, particularly in rural areas. The dynamics of providing service to these areas is dependent upon there being a middle-mile component in place to supply last-mile providers.

While middle-mile fiber is being deployed by some successful Round One telephone companies, the challenge is often providing middle-mile to more remote locations. If fiber cannot supply this connection, other technologies such as microwave and satellite may be required. With over 2,000 wireless broadband providers nationwide, WISPs should provide an integral link in providing adequate last-mile connectivity.

The Parties at the Broadband Table

Achieving an organized broadband system requires the consideration of a number of parties. Among these are State government, state-created entities, non-profit advocacy groups, trade associations, institutions, bandwidth suppliers and contractors. Existing initiatives and alliances have been created, which should comprise the foundation for an organized system. Notwithstanding, disparate agendas often exist, which may impede this overall process.

The state is at the forefront, with its demand, oversight and funding resources. States have differing structures in place, with responsibilities and control often spread over various agencies. Direction must ultimately come from governors to ensure that an organized system is in place internally. The state will have existing contracts with bandwidth providers and contractors as required. Naturally, the these parties will want to protect such arrangements.

Most states have created and funded one or more entities to foster broadband capacity. Some of these groups are virtually ineffectual, yet others literally oversee all broadband activity in the state, while reporting to the Governor. Their responsibilities may include preparation of state RFPs as well as applications for state and Federal funding. Such entities are usually non-profit, and ostensibly independent in nature.

The aforementioned institutions will also have existing vendors, which want to be protected. An institution’s overall objective should be to meet its individual requirements, while participating in an overall organized broadband system that is advantageous to the institution, the system and the state.

Broadband Challenges Ahead

It is becoming clear that enhanced broadband capacity will reap numerous economic and educational advantages at the state level. Naturally, a major hurdle involves adequate funding. Federal broadband stimulus money allocated to date will stimulate the overall process, however, additional financial resources will be required.

The national broadband plan has initially requested $25 billion in new funding. While procedures for requesting this money have yet to be established, it is important for states to prepare for this process. In order to obtain funding at the state level it is essential that lawmakers become more aware of the benefits of enhanced broadband. States that have existing funding programs will no doubt stand a greater chance of being awarded funding under the plan.

Leadership, organization and cooperation are the keywords in establishing an organized statewide broadband system. A focused structure with clear objectives, lines of responsibility and accountability will be required. Regular communication among the agencies and other parties involved is paramount.

While successful vendors should be rewarded, others should be included to promote competition within the state. States that aggressively pursue enhanced broadband capabilities at this juncture will achieve near-term objectives, while laying the foundation for important future technological developments.

Jeff Eden has 23 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, and is available for consultation with regard to the broadband stimulus process at: jeff@edenbroadband.com

Jeff Eden has been in the telecommunications industry for 23 years, including working with cable franchising, retransmission consent, and WiMAX technologies. As an investment banker with Daniels and Associates in Denver, Jeff brokered $50 million in cable deals, primarily on the Southwest. While at Avalon Partners, he brokered internet service providers and satellite companies valued at $75 million and located in the Midwest, Maryland and Puerto Rico.

Broadband's Impact

Julio Fuentes: Access Delayed Was Access Denied to the Poorest Americans

Big Telecom companies caused months and months of delays in the rollout of the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

Published

on

The author of this Expert Opinion is Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Remember when millions of students in dense urban areas and less-populated rural areas weren’t dependent on home broadband access so they could attend school?

Remember when we didn’t need telehealth appointments, and broadband access in urban and outlying areas was an issue that could be dealt with another day?

Remember when the capability to work remotely in underserved communities wasn’t the difference between keeping a job and losing it?

Not anymore.

Education. Health care. Employment. The COVID-19 pandemic affected them all, and taking care of a family in every respect required broadband access and technology to get through large stretches of the pandemic.

You’d think the Federal Communications Commission and its then-acting chairwoman would have pulled out all the stops to make sure that this type of service was available to as many people as possible, as soon as possible — especially when there’s a targeted federally funded program for that important purpose.

Alas, by all appearances, some Big Telecom companies threw their weight around and caused months and months of delays, denying this life-changing access to the people who needed it most — at the time they needed it most.

The program in question is the federally funded Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The EBB offered eligible households — often the poorest Americans — a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and those households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop or other computer if they contribute just $10 to the purchase. Huge value and benefits for technology that should no longer be the privilege of only those with resources.

Seems fairly straightforward, right?

It should have been. But FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel slammed on the brakes. Why? It turns out that Big Telecom giants wanted more time to get ready to grab a piece of the action — a lot more time. While the program was ready to go in February, it didn’t actually launch until several months later.

That’s months of unnecessary delay.

But it wasn’t providers who were waiting. It was Americans in underserved and rural areas, desperate for a connection to the world.

Here are some numbers for Rosenworcel to consider:

  • As recently as March, 58% of white elementary students were enrolled for full-time in-person instruction, while only 36% of Black students, 35% of Latino students, and 18% of Asian peers were able to attend school in person.
  • Greater portions of families of color and low-income families reportedly fell out of contact with their children’s schools during the pandemic. In one national survey in spring 2020, nearly 30% of principals from schools serving “large populations of students of color and students from lower-income households” said they had difficulty reaching some of their students and/or families — in contrast to the 14% of principals who said the same in wealthier, predominantly white schools.
  • In fall 2020, only 61% of households with income under $25,000 reported that the internet was “always available” for their children to use for educational purposes; this share was 86% among households with incomes above $75,000.

And all of these numbers cut across other key issues such as health care and maintaining employment.

Access delayed was access denied to the poorest, most isolated Americans during the worst pandemic in generations.

Allowing Big Telecom companies to get their ducks in a row (and soak up as many federal dollars as possible) left poor and rural Americans with no options, for months. Who knows how many children went without school instruction? Or how many illnesses went undiagnosed? Or how many jobs were terminated?

This delay was appalling, and Chairwoman Rosenworcel should have to answer for her actions to the Senate Commerce Committee as it considers her nomination for another term as commissioner. Rather than expedite important help to people who needed it most, she led the agency’s delay — for the benefit of giant providers, not the public.

Hopefully, the committee moves with more dispatch than she did in considering her actual fitness to be FCC chairwoman for another term.

Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Continue Reading

Broadband's Impact

Sunne McPeak: Achieving True Digital Equity Requires Strong Leadership and Sincere Collaboration

Collaboration between community leaders will be essential in ensuring success of the Biden infrastructure bill in California.

Published

on

The author of this Expert Opinion is Sunne Wright McPeak

This week, President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure bill, which includes $65 billion for expanding broadband deployment and access for all Americans.

The national plan is described as the most significant infrastructure upgrade in the three decades since the Cold War. “This is an opportunity to create an Eisenhower national highway system for the information age,” says a former White House National Security Council senior director.

For California – the nation’s largest state – it means a minimum $100 million for broadband infrastructure that is designed to expand high-speed internet access for at least 545,000 residents, particularly in unserved and underserved communities, according to the White House. The federal funding will support California’s $6 billion broadband infrastructure plan.

Closing the digital divide and achieving true digital equity requires strong leadership and sincere collaboration among public agencies, internet service providers and civic leaders to seize this unique opportunity to achieve strategic priorities in education, telehealth, transportation and economic development. The 2021 USC-CETF Statewide Survey on Broadband Adoption highlighted that a significant number of Californians will be left behind because they are unable to access the internet and other digital functionality needed for vital activities.

Now, the question is how to ensure the public’s funds will be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. California must implement a thoughtful, aggressive strategy that will maximize immediate impact and optimize return on investment. Separately, for several years, CETF has been calling for broadband deployment as a green strategy for sustainability; that urgency only grows in the wake of the COP26 climate meetings. As leaders begin to make historic investments, they should embrace these key principles for action:

  • Prioritize and drive infrastructure construction to the hardest-to-reach residents — rural unserved areas, tribal lands, and poor urban neighborhoods — and then connect all locations, especially anchor institutions (schools, libraries and health care facilities), along the path of deployment.
  • Require open-access fiber middle-mile infrastructure with end-user internet speeds sufficient to support distance learning and telehealth.
  • Strive to achieve ubiquitous deployment in each region to avoid cherry picking for more lucrative areas.
  • Encourage coordination among local governments and regional agencies to streamline permitting and achieve economies of scale.
  • Develop an open competitive process to achieve the most cost-effective investment of new dollars by optimizing use of existing infrastructure that ratepayers and taxpayers already have built.

To learn more, please contact Sunne Wright McPeak at sunne.mcpeak@cetfund.org

Sunne Wright McPeak is President and CEO of California Emerging Technology Fund, a statewide non-profit foundation with 15 years of experience addressing broadband issues to close the Digital Divide in California. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC. 

Continue Reading

Broadband's Impact

Frank Gornick: Valley Leaders Join State to Bring Ubiquitous Broadband to the San Joaquin Valley

Bringing internet capability to communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley is the focus of a new effort.

Published

on

The author of this Expert Opinion is Frank Gornick.

As the pandemic begins to recede, it leaves behind warnings of weak links in our overall health as a functioning society. The signs are everywhere: health care, water, infrastructure, education, supply chains and equitable access to technology and opportunity.

Under the guidance of the San Joaquin Regional Broadband Consortium, and with support from the California Emerging Technology Fund, our goal is to bring ubiquitous broadband to the eight counties that compromise the San Joaquin Valley, among the most underserved regions of the state and underestimated in ability to lead and drive change.

And we will do it within a year — a bold but doable achievement.

As a start, we are announcing a new partnership, #SanJoaquinValleyNetwork, which will seek the necessary resources to deliver a world class internet to enhance the economic and human conditions because our leaders want no less for our citizens.

To be clear, this is a significant undertaking with many moving parts. Therefore, understanding the players and the territory is essential.

Understanding the infrastructure landscape is critical

It begins by identifying what internet infrastructure currently exists and assessing the internet’s capacity in the eight counties. Where is it robust and, where is it lacking.

Why this year? There is political will and the funds to do it.

In July, the governor signed SB 156, which authorizes the state to work with counties, internet service providers, school districts, hospitals, libraries, businesses, manufacturers, farmers and municipalities. The goal is to develop a statewide open-access, middle-mile broadband network, including creating rural exchange points with last-mile access to homes, businesses and essential services.

The good news is that we are building upon the existing network, not starting over. Therefore, these expenditures will be much more efficient and effective.

In addition to the clearly stated intent of the legislation, state leaders have provided $6 billion for implementation.

Continuing into November, the San Joaquin Valley counties will be organizing and planning under the auspices of SJVRBC to obtain the maximum amount of financial assistance to implement the goals of #SanJoaquinValleyNetwork.

Applying for federal grant dollars in San Joaquin Valley

As this effort gets underway, #SanJoaquinValleyNetwork will begin applying for federal and state dollars to realize our goal, bringing ubiquitous broadband to the Valley in a year.

What outcomes can we expect? First, as we have learned from the pandemic, we must do more to expand deployment and access because it is critical for so many people to have reliable, robust connections to the services they need and to access new opportunities. However, not everyone has equal access.

The internet has provided greater access to health care, but not everyone has equal access, particularly seniors, low income households and rural residents. Students at all grades for the past 18 months have had to adjust to online learning, but not everyone has equal access or capacity required to succeed and gain the skills to join the workforce of the future.

Our economic engine, the agricultural industry, has relied on breakthrough technologies that depend on high speed internet, and dependability and access to the internet is necessary for growth and productivity.

The investment to extend broadband to the most remote and underserved communities will raise the standard of living of many — and the quality of life for everyone in the San Joaquin Valley.

Billions of dollars in California and across the country will be invested in deploying internet infrastructure to rural, tribal and urban neighborhoods in poverty. Construction of publicly subsidized, open-access middle-mile infrastructure that includes last-mile deployment achieves the best of both objectives — ensuring immediate internet access for businesses and residents. That’s why business, education and civic leaders throughout the San Joaquin Valley are applauding this effort.

We urge leaders in Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin counties to join this effort.

For more information on the #SanJoaquinValleyPartnership, please contact Dr. Frank Gornick at frankgornick@comcast.net, 559-281-5200.

Dr. Frank Gornick is the chancellor emeritus of West Hills Community College District, where he served as chancellor for 16 years. He is the project manager of the #SanJoaquinValleyNetwork and lives in Lemoore. This piece is reprinted from The Fresno Bee with permission.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending