HARTFORD, Conn., September 16, 2014 – Connecticut state and city leaders on Monday announced a nationally-praised effort to build the first all-state Gigabit Network.
The mayors of the state’s second- and fourth-largest cities, New Haven and Stamford, joined with state legislative leaders, the state’s Comptroller, and others to seek to create an “open access” fiber-optic network targeting the state’s residential and commercial corridors with Gigabit connectivity.
A Request for Qualifications document released Monday envisions a public-private partnership leveraging existing state assets, including an existing ultra-high speed statewide fiber network that connects all 169 municipalities with multiple nodes and Gigabit access.
“This project is an important step toward making Connecticut the first Gigabit State,” Comptroller Kevin Lembo said. “It would be the ultimate economic assistance and incentive program – rewarding all business and industry with an infrastructure worthy of settling in Connecticut. It would serve as an open door to all businesses, including new ones and those already established here.”
“This collaboration among our cities and these state-level groups will lead Connecticut forward and avoid a damaging digital divide,” said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.
“It’s essential that the municipalities in this state work together as a whole on this project,” said Stamford Mayor David Martin.
Economic Development-Driven Effort
In addition to the prime goal to “foster innovation, drive job creation and stimulate economic growth,” the RFQ’s other two goals include the provision of “free or heavily discounted 10-100 [Megabit per second] internet service over a wired or wireless network to underserved and disadvantaged residential areas,” and making Gigabit Network services available at low prices.
“Respondents are thus encouraged to fashion comments or responses to this RFQ that propose the involvement of the state’s assets in the Project,” read the document. It also encouraged “collaborative efforts among multiple governmental organizations in order to offset some of the local asset discrepancies.”
The document, which could lead to statewide procurement, grew out of efforts undertaken by Connecticut’s office of Consumer Counsel, bringing together national Gigabit leaders — including Blair Levin, architect of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 National Broadband Plan — earlier in this year.
“As soon as we started the conversation about Gigabit Network, we heard from businesses, universities, high-tech start-ups, mayors and first selectmen – really such a variety of stakeholders – about how greater internet speeds at lower costs are essential to their functioning,” said Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz. Connecticut’s State Broadband Initiative office operates out of the Office of Consumer Counsel.
“It’s time we tear down the galls to Gigabit internet access in Connecticut, said state Sen. Beth Bye from West Hartford. “We have the will and I believe we have the ability to make this happen for Connecticut.”
West Hartford, the third of the three cities issuing the RFQ, is the state’s 11th largest city. Among the city’s assets is a 35 linear mile fiber optic network.
Business Support and Tangible Benefits
In addition to the commitments by New Haven, Stamford and West Hartford — and the interest of the state — technology business leaders pledged their support to making the effort a success.
“We have an opportunity to take Connecticut to the next level,” said Ted Yang, founder and CTO of the Stamford-based Media Crossing, a digital media start-up. “Our competitors in New York City and San Francisco don’t think twice about having the best broadband speeds, and we need to level the playing field.”
“We would like to see the progress of science and medicine being limited only by our intellectual capacity and imagination, not by the speed and volume with which we exchange and share our data and ideas,” said Dr. Yu-Hui Rogers, state director of the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in neighboring Farmington.
Declining costs of computing have dropped the cos of sequencing the humane genome from $300 million to less than $1,000. “Advances in sequencing the genome translates into health benefits for people,” she said. This can only happen if data can be rapidly shared among collaborating entities.
State Assets in Streamlined Rights of Way
Among the most significant drivers of the project will be the state’s ability to provide potential respondents with access to telephone poles and rights-of-way — the key building block to successful fiber-optic construction.
“All the utility poles across the state are subject to the central statutory jurisdiction of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority,” read the RFQ. “The established and firm timelines for the entire pole attachment process that the Connecticut regulator has ordered and manages … thus facilitat[es] the deployment of broadband.”
The RFQ is the first state-wide effort to implement a model pioneered by Gig.U, a national non-profit consortium started by Levin after he concluded the National Broadband Plan in 2010.
The state-driven initiative also praise from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler: “High-speed broadband is an essential asset for today’s communities and tomorrow’s economy. Too many Americans lack real choices for fast, affordable Internet service, which I why I’m heartened to see these leaders commit to bringing gigabit connectivity to the businesses and consumers of central Connecticut. Today’s announcement will lead to more competitive choices for consumers and more innovation to create jobs and improve the lives across the region.”
Lack of Public Broadband Pricing Information a Cause of Digital Divide, Say Advocates
Panelists argued that lack of equitable digital access is deadly and driven by lack of competition.
September 24, 2021- Affordability, language and lack of competition are among the factors that continue to perpetuate the digital divide and related inequities, according to panelists at a Thursday event on race and broadband.
One of the panelists faulted the lack of public broadband pricing information as a root cause.
In poorer communities there’s “fewer ISPs. There’s less competition. There’s less investment in fiber,” said Herman Galperin, associate professor at the University of Southern California. “It is about income. It is about race, but what really matters is the combination of poverty and communities of color. That’s where we find the largest deficits of broadband infrastructure.”
While acknowledging that “there is an ongoing effort at the [Federal Communications Commission] to significantly improve the type of data and the granularity of the data that the ISPs will be required to report,” Galperin said that the lack of a push to make ISP pricing public will doom that effort to fail.
He also questioned why ISPs do not or are not required to report their maps of service coverage revealing areas of no or low service. “Affordability is perhaps the biggest factor in preventing low-income folks from connecting,” Galperin said.
“It’s plain bang for their buck,” said Traci Morris, executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University, referring to broadband providers reluctance to serve rural and remote areas. “It costs more money to go to [tribal lands].”
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made that digital divide clearer and more deadly. “There was no access to information for telehealth,” said Morris. “No access to information on how the virus spread.”
Galperin also raised the impact of digital gaps in access upon homeless and low-income populations. As people come in and out of homelessness, they have trouble connecting to the internet at crucial times, because – for example – a library might be closed.
Low-income populations also have “systemic” digital access issues struggling at times with paying their bills having to shut their internet off for months at a time.
Another issue facing the digital divide is linguistic. Rebecca Kauma, economic and digital inclusion program manager for the city of Long Beach, California, said that residents often speak a language other than English. But ISPs may not offer interpretation services for them to be able to communicate in their language.
Funding, though not a quick fix-all, often brings about positive change in the right hands. Long Beach received more than $1 million from the U.S. CARES Act, passed in the wake of the early pandemic last year. “One of the programs that we designed was to administer free hotspots and computing devices to those that qualify,” she said.
Some “band-aid solutions” to “systemic problems” exist but aren’t receiving the attention or initiative they deserve, said Galperin. “What advocacy organizations are doing but we need a lot more effort is helping people sign up for existing low-cost offers.” The problem, he says, is that “ISPs are not particularly eager to promote” low-cost offers.
The event “Race and Digital Inequity: The Impact on Poor Communities of Color,” was hosted by the Michelson 20MM Foundation and its partners the California Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Southern California Grantmakers.
USC, CETF Collaborate on Research for Broadband Affordability
Advisory panel includes leaders in broadband and a chief economist at the FCC.
WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021 – Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and the California Emerging Technology Fund is partnering to recommend strategies for bringing affordable broadband to all Americans.
In a press release on Tuesday, the university’s school of communications and journalism and the CETF will be guided by an expert advisory panel, “whose members include highly respected leaders in government, academia, foundations and non-profit and consumer-focused organizations.”
Members of the advisory panel include a chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, digital inclusion experts, broadband advisors to governors, professors and deans, and other public interest organizations.
“With the federal government and states committing billions to broadband in the near term, there is a unique window of opportunity to connect millions of low-income Americans to the infrastructure they need to thrive in the 21st century,” Hernan Galperin, a professor at the school, said in the release.
“However, we need to make sure public funds are used effectively, and that subsidies are distributed in an equitable and sustainable manner,” he added. “This research program will contribute to achieve these goals by providing evidence-based recommendations about the most cost-effective ways to make these historic investments in broadband work for all.”
The CETF and USC have collaborated before on surveys about broadband adoption. In a series of said surveys recently, the organizations found disparities along income levels, as lower-income families reported lower levels of technology adoption, despite improvement over the course of the pandemic.
The surveys also showed that access to connected devices was growing, but racial minorities are still disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.
The collaboration comes before the House is expected to vote on a massive infrastructure package that includes $65 billion for broadband. Observers and experts have noted the package’s vision for flexibility, but some are concerned about the details of how that money will be spent going forward.
Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas
The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.
WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.
The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.
The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.
The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.
Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.
“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.
“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.
“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”
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