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Giants of Broadband: A Personal Remembrance of Scott DeGarmo

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.

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.

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 my levels.

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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.

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Broadband's Impact

Reason 4 to Attend Broadband Mapping Masterclass: Measuring Actual Speeds

The 4th of 5 reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on 9/27 at 12 Noon ET

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WASHINGTON, September 26, 2022 – The fourth reason to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on September 27, 2022, is to understand the role that speed tests are playing in the discussion about actual speeds versus available speeds – and its importance for federal and state efforts to distribute broadband infrastructure funds.

Broadband Breakfast is hosting the 2-hour Broadband Mapping Masterclass to help Internet Service Providers, mapping and GIS consultants, and people in everyday communities concerned about broadband mapping.

This 2-hour Masterclass, available for only $99, will help you navigate the treacherous waters around broadband mapping. The live Broadband Mapping Masterclass is being recorded, and those who make a one-time $99 payment will obtain a guaranteed place during the live session.

ENROLL TODAY for our Zoom Webinar through PayPal.

Registrants will also receive unlimited on-demand access to the Masterclass recording. And they will receive Broadband Breakfast’s premium research report on broadband mapping.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

We’re presenting five additional reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass.

Additional reason number 4 to attend the Masterclass

The last time that the federal government initiated a significant effort to fund broadband, in 2009, the United States lacked a basic map of what we at Broadband Breakfast have for years called the Broadband SPARC: Measuring Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition by high-speed internet access providers.

The National Broadband Map was a first effort to measure availability and competition by displaying the individual providers that offered broadband on a Census block level. But it lacked any measure of broadband speeds, prices or the reliability of such information.

Over the past 13 years, we now have a great variety of robust sources of speed test data – as well as significant datasets with information about pricing and reliability of broadband. The Broadband Mapping Masterclass will explore ways in which actual speed data has and can be used to crosscheck the quality of broadband availability data released by the Federal Communications Commission.

By attending the Broadband Mapping Masterclass, you’ll learn what you need to know in order assess the quality of broadband data as made availability by federal and state agencies, and private companies and organizations.

ENROLL TODAY  to find out what happens next.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

Read more about the reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

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Broadband's Impact

Dianne Crocker: Recession Fears Have Real Estate Market Forecasters Hitting the Reset Button

Growing fears of recession trigger pullback on previous rosy forecasts.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Dianne Crocker, Principal Analyst for LightBox

The lyrics to “Same As It Ever Was” by the Talking Heads certainly don’t apply to how 2022 is playing out in the commercial real estate market. Two quarters of negative economic growth has put a damper on market sentiment and triggered fears that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession. By midyear, market analysts were taking a good, hard look at their rosy forecasts from the start of the New Year and redrawing the lines.

Once upon a time…

At the start of 2022, forecasters were bullishly predicting that commercial real estate investment and lending levels would be nearly as good as 2021. This was significant, considering that 2021 set new records for deal-making and lending volume as the debt and equity capital amassed during the pandemic while looking for a home in U.S. commercial real estate.

What a difference a few quarters have made. Virtually, all the predictions that started the New Year were obsolete by mid-summer. The abrupt shift in market conditions is palpable and surprised just about everyone. Now, markets are reaching an inflection point that is in sharp contrast with the strong rebound of last year.

The two I’s: Inflation and interest rates

At the core of the recent upset in market sentiment is the persistence of high inflation, which seems to be ignoring all attempts by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and bring prices down. Higher inflation is having a ripple effect throughout the economy, pushing up the costs of construction materials, energy, and consumer goods. Among the notable economic indicators showing stress at mid-year was the GDP, which fell for the second consecutive quarter, and the Consumer Price Index, which jumped 9.1% year-over-year in June – the highest increase in about four decades.

In July, the CPI fell to 8.5%, an encouraging sign that inflation was beginning to stabilize. By the latest August report from LightBox, however, hopes were dashed when the CPI showed little improvement, holding firm at a still high of 8.3%.

The market is responding to a higher cost of capital as lenders tap the brakes. As the cost of capital rises with each interest rate hike and concerns of a recession intensify, many large U.S. financial institutions are pulling back on their loan originations for the rest of 2022 and into 2023. This change in tenor is a significant shift, given that 2021 was a record-breaking year for commercial real estate lending. Many lenders have already shifted to a more defensive underwriting position as they look to mitigate risks.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, which had previously predicted that lending levels in 2022 would break the $1 trillion mark for the first time revised their forecast downward in mid-July. By year-end, the MBA now expects volume to be a significant 18% below 2021 levels—and one-third lower than the bullish forecast made in February. Now, investment activity is cooling as higher borrowing costs drive some buyers from the market.

In the investment world, transactions were down by 29% at midyear due to a thinning buyer pool as higher rates impact access to debt capital. Market volatility is causing investors, lenders, and owners to rethink strategies, reconsider assumptions, and prepare for possible disruption.

Looking ahead to year-end and 2023

The rapid and diverse shifts in the market make for an uncertain forecast and certainly a more cautious investment environment. The battle between inflation and interest rates will continue over the near term. As LightBox’s investor, lender, valuation, and environmental due diligence clients move toward the 4th quarter—typically the busiest quarter of the year–unprecedented volatility is driving them to recalibrate and reforecast given recent market developments.

Continued softness in transaction volume is likely to continue as rates and valuations establish a new equilibrium. If property prices begin to level out, there will be more pressure on buyers to consider how to improve a property to get their return on investment. The next chapter of the commercial real estate market will be defined by how long inflation sticks around, how high interest rates go, and whether the economy slips into a recession (and how deeply). The greatest areas of opportunity will be found in asset classes like office and retail that are evolving away from traditional uses and morphing to meet the needs of today’s market. Until barometers stabilize, it’s important to rethink assumptions, watch developments, and recalibrate as necessary.

Dianne Crocker is the Principal Analyst for LightBox, delivering strategic analytics, best practices in risk management, market intelligence reports, educational seminars, and customized research for stakeholders in commercial real estate deals. She is a highly respected expert on commercial real estate market trends. 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.

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Broadband's Impact

Reason 3 to Attend Broadband Mapping Masterclass: State Maps vs. Federal Maps

The 3rd of 5 reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on 9/27 at 12 Noon ET

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WASHINGTON, September 23, 2022 – The third reason to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on September 27, 2022, is to get a handle on what state broadband officers have and are doing with broadband maps.

While much of the action has been at the Federal Communications Commission, after state allocations have been made, funding decisions will ultimately come from state broadband officers.

Broadband Breakfast is hosting the 2-hour Broadband Mapping Masterclass to help Internet Service Providers, mapping and GIS consultants, and people in everyday communities concerned about broadband mapping.

This 2-hour Masterclass, available for only $99, will help you navigate the treacherous waters around broadband mapping. The live Broadband Mapping Masterclass is being recorded, and those who make a one-time $99 payment will obtain a guaranteed place during the live session.

ENROLL TODAY for our Zoom Webinar through PayPal.

Registrants will also receive unlimited on-demand access to the Masterclass recording. And they will receive Broadband Breakfast’s premium research report on broadband mapping.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

We’re presenting five additional reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass.

Additional reason number 3 to attend the Masterclass

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates $42.5 billion for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. Every state will receive at least $100 million in funding, but the remaining more-than $37 billion will be allocated among states based upon a formula that is primarily determined by their percentage of the unserved population. (According to IIJA, a location is “unserved” if it lacks access to broadband at 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. An area is “underserved” if it lacks 100 Mbps * 20 Mbps broadband.)

That’s where the FCC’s updated broadband map come in: Once challenges to the map are concluded, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will allocate that $37 billion pool according to the “denominator” that the NTIA reads out from the FCC map.

But state and their broadband offices have a trump card: They can and are developing their own maps to check, verify and challenge the FCC map. Furthermore, they are under no obligation to award funds according to the actual places that the FCC says are unserved or underserved.

In the Broadband Mapping Masterclass, you’ll learn what you need to know in order to tap into these efforts by state broadband offices.

ENROLL TODAY  to find out what happens next.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

Read more about the reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

ENROLL TODAY

 

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